Kane Mayor Brandy Schimp warned the Kane community Thursday afternoon that, “Our actions now determine what happens next,” in the face of a surge in the county’s COVID infections.

She was joined in an afternoon press briefing at the Borough Building by Kane Superintendent of Schools Brock Benson and UPMC-Kane CEO Mark Papalia.

The message from all three community leaders was urgent: masking can help stop the spread of the infection. Currently, the infection is spreading fast and will only get worse without careful attention to efforts to stop it.

“If the infection continues to spread locally at the current rate, it may disrupt children’s education and have a resulting effect on their parents,” Benson said. He stopped short of predicting whether schools might be cancelled and under what circumstances.

Benson explained that the issue is not just students and staff getting sick, it is the associated problem related to any resulting quarantine. The school district must quarantine for 14 days, he said, “anyone who has been within six feet of a COVID infected person for more than fifteen cumulative minutes.”

“One person sick,” he said, “has a dramatic domino effect in a school setting.”

Benson emphasized the importance of masking, social distancing and hand washing to help slow down the spread of the infection. If too many faculty and employees become ill or quarantined, he said, schools may not have enough staff to operate safely, regardless of how many, or how few, children are sick.

It is not just the number of cases that affect the community, all three speakers agreed, it is the number of contacts with another person each of one of those sick people has had because that is what drives the decision to require quarantine.

Papalia echoed Benson’s concerns. While emphasizing that UPMC-Kane is “ready and well-prepared” to deal with an influx of COVID cases, issues of staffing can become an important consideration.

He stressed the need for the community to follow “basic public health principles.” He encouraged people to call their primary care physician if they are ill, keep themselves healthy by getting a flu shot, and keeping up with routine doctor’s visits and medical care.

In addition, Papalia added, failure to take steps to slow the spread can have an effect not only on those who seek medical help for COVID related illness, but on those whose non-COVID medical needs may not be met because of an overtaxed health care system.

“We are part of a large system, and staff and resources can be shifted where they are needed. Things can change quickly but right now,” he said, “we are ready and our facilities are safe.”

Schimp said she was speaking not only as Mayor, but as a parent who is concerned for the welfare of all of the community’s children.

She noted that many students benefit from eating two meals a day at school. At school, she continued, “children can be kept safe and warm. And although distanced, they can still interact with peers and engage in some sort of normalcy.”

She highlighted the very practical problem faced by many parents of school-aged children.

“If our schools were to move to all virtual,” she said, “this will be a burden for many of our families who would need to choose between staying home or going to work.”

While acknowledging the political debates that roil the masking controversy , “this is not a political issue,” she said. “This is a community health and safety issue.”

“I am here asking you,” she said, “to help keep our kids in school. Help keep our citizens working. And help keep our businesses open.”

She concluded: “One of the greatest things about our community is that when someone is in need of help, we rally and we rise and we support. And our students, our families, and our local businesses are in need of our help. I am asking, pleading, please wear a mask and join the fight.”

A video of the press briefing is available to view by visiting Schimp’s Facebook.

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