By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – There have now been 42 positive COVID-19 tests in Winnebago County, officials announced Saturday.
The announcement comes hours after state officials reported 1,453 new positive tests statewide, brining the Illinois total to 10,357 cases and 243 deaths.
One person has died locally from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
As coronavirus hotspots begin to peak within the six or seven days, experts say the number of deaths are expected to rise. The majority of fatalities will be among critical patients diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last three weeks.
Besides New York, which has more than 113,000 confirmed cases of the virus as of this report; New Jersey, which has logged more than 34,000, Illinois will continue to become a hotspot as testing increases. Led by Cook’s nearly 7,500 cases, the disease is now in 68 Illinois counties.
Based on models, Winnebago County, with a population of approximately 285,000, could see thousands of confirmed cases in the coming weeks as more people are tested.
Experts say a way to prevent a surge in any community is to remain home unless it’s for essential goods and services.
“The virus cannot spread if people are apart,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Saturday during a White House press briefing.
Illinois is currently under a stay-at-home order until May 1, a date that could be extended, depending on what happens in Chicago and how well officials believe citizens are helping to flatten the coronavirus curve.
Local officials have gone to great lengths to keep people from gathering in public. The Rockford Park District removed all outdoor basketball rims, while Mayor Tom McNamara, Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Health Department Director Dr. Sandra Martell have made several public pleas for people to stay put as ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last month.
“Thank you to the large majority of our community for complying with the Stay at Home order,” the City of Rockford posted on Facebook Saturday. “You are helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Rockford aldermen, last Monday, approved an ordinance that gives the city power to fine non-essential businesses $750 per day for staying open while the stay-at-home order is in place. The ordinance also applies to individuals who intentionally gather in groups.
Approximately 80% of COVID-19 cases are considered mild and can be resolved at home without medical care. For the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the symptoms could be serious, even fatal. Around 85% of all deaths from the disease is among people 60 and older with other coexisting ailments.
Because COVID-19 is highly contagious and people can spread the virus for up to two weeks without showing symptoms, it is infecting thousands of people at once and overwhelming health-care networks. While that reality hasn’t been seen locally, Rockford leaders are taking every precaution to not flood its three hospitals that collectively only have 892 beds and fewer than 70 ventilators.
Leaders say if they can keep the local infection rate to 20% or better, hospitals will be able to handle the pandemic.
There were approximately 7,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States March 18. Saturday, April 4, there are more than 310,000. Fauci said last week there will likely be millions of cases by late summer. The death toll could be between 100,000 and 200,000.