By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – Local leaders continue to remind citizens that staying home is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
As of Saturday, there are 11 confirmed cases of the disease in Winnebago County, a total of 24 in the northern Illinois region. So far, leaders say that’s a manageable number. But if the number of cases gets out of hand, it could spell chaos for hospitals.
“Bottom line: If we don’t slow down the spread of COVID-19 by taking disruptive mitigation measures, there will likely be a surge in cases that would exceed our health care capacity,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney said via Facebook. “Therefore, we need to stay the course – this is a critical time in the fight against COVID-19.”
While the majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 will recover without hospitalization, older adults are at higher risk of severe illness, and more than 85% of deaths in Illinois are among individuals 60 and older.
Saturday, the Illinois Department of Health reported 465 new cases of the coronavirus disease and 13 new deaths, including a Cook County infant. Two men in their 60s, two men in their 70s, a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s also died in Cook County.
Other deaths reported Saturday include a McHenry County man in his 50s, two Kane County men in their 70s, two Lake County women in their 90s, and a Will County woman in her 90s.
There are now 3,491 cases of COVID-19 in 43 Illinois counties. Forty-seven people have died. Nearly 75% of the cases are in Cook County, where infections are on the rise, preparing officials for what could be a massive weight on hospital admissions.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Saturday that Chicago prepared to use McCormick Place as 3,000-bed field hospital to deal with an influx of patients as the city becomes a COVID-19 hotspot.
On Thursday, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said although Winnebago County hasn’t been hit hard by the pandemic, more cases are likely, and it wouldn’t take much to overwhelm the system.
“In Winnebago County, quite honestly, we’ve been fortunate,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said,” and the number of cases (is) growing a bit slower here. We are behind the rest of the state and the country, however, we are using this time to prepare.”
As of Saturday, 522 of Rockford’s 892 hospital beds are filled. Officials say if citizens obey the state’s stay-at-home order and help keep the local infection rate at 20% or better, sick patients could potentially need approximately 615 beds. If 60% or more of the local population becomes infected, the need could be as high as 1,844.
“We must continue to be vigilant,” McNamara said. “We must stay home. We must continue to practice social distancing, continue to wash our hands and frequently used surfaces often.”
McNamara, Haney and Winnebago County Health Department Director Dr. Sandra Martell are scheduled to give a COVID-19 update Monday.