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Kankakee County At Bottom For COVID-19 Vaccination Rates In Northern Illinois, With Just 36% Fully Vaccinated

KANKAKEE, Ill. (CBS) -- The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,082 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday – the first time the state has surpassed 2,000 cases a day since May 7.

Meanwhile, the statewide case positivity rate is up to 4 percent - the highest it has been since April 19, during the minor surge Illinois experienced this spring.

This comes as vaccination rates are still way down – with an average of 17,982 doses per day over the past week compared to 43,219 a month ago, a 58 percent drop. And nowhere in northern Illinois has a lower vaccination rate than Kankakee County, where not even four of every 10 people have gotten vaccinated.

We wanted to know why.

CBS 2's Chris Tye spent the day Wednesday in Kankakee County, and found a trust deficit and a healthy rumor mill are keeping those numbers well below the national average.

"Some of the excuses that you hear is mind boggling - you don't even want to address," said Theodis Pace of the NAACP of Kankakee County, "things I don't even want to repeat, really."

As the head of the NAACP in Kankakee, Pace stews on the disinformation that has got Kankakee County losing the regional vaccination race.

DuPage County is winning the race, with 59 percent of residents fully vaccinated. Cook County follows with 54 percent, Lake County with 51 percent, Kendall County with 50 percent, and Will, Kane, and McHenry counties each with 49 percent.

In Kankakee County, just 36 percent of residents are fully vaccinated – and there are even more grim data.

"The percentage of the Black and brown community is not well – it's about 7, 8 percent," Pace said.

"It's those communities of color that we've really spent a lot of time on, and I can't say successfully at this point," added Andy Wheeler, Chairman of the Kankakee County Board.

The head of the county board plans to tie in vaccination efforts to the county fair and back-to-school season.

"I post the obituaries every day," said Kankakee resident Bob Schneider. "I have people who write me and tell me I should have listened."

Schneider runs a local Facebook page with 15,000 followers. He says local leaders have been too quiet.

"They're not being vocal at all," he said. "It's not even a question of 'enough' a little bit would be 100 percent more than what's going on now."

In response to that, Wheeler said: "I just disagree. I think that 'enough' is a word that is subjective, but I say that we have a direct effort of people with boots on the ground to get that message out into the community that have been resistant to get the shot."

Meanwhile, Cheryl Trumble runs Paul's Place - a local watering hole where politics, medical concerns, and the unknown drive many of her customers to hold off on getting the vaccine.

"My husband won't get it at all," said restaurant owner Cheryl Trumble, who is white. "We have been on the fence. He said if I force him, he will."

Trumble is also holding off on getting the vaccine herself.

Tye: "What will it take for you kind of to go from a no to a yes?"

Trumble: "More research, probably – just seeing more people are getting it and are not having any kind of side effects."

Local leaders say those waiting are playing a perilous game where time might not be on their side.

"I'm just hoping that they haven't contracted COVID and they're still with us in four and five years," Wheeler said.

Within the local Black and brown community, their trendline was going up steadily until a setback with the Johnson & Johnson shots in April where a handful of blood clots were reported.

The NAACP said that stopped the trend in its tracks, and they are still trying to play catchup.

The Kankakee average of 36 percent full vaccination is well below the national average of 49 percent.

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