Rockford's Independent Newspaper

State ramps up COVID-19 testing, leaders eye Illinois’ future

By Jim Hagerty

CHICAGO – Illinois officials announced the state’s largest daily count of COVID-19 cases Wednesday.

There were 2,049 new infections statewide, a mark Gov. J.B. Pritzker says is largely the result of more testing; about 9,000 people were tested between April 21 and April 22. The Illinois Department of Health also reported 98 new deaths. Cook County accounted for 69 of those fatalities.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported Wednesday that 16 more people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the death of a 12th person. It is not known if the person was tested for the disease or was a presumed positive.

Local officials now say Heritage Woods and Peterson Meadows senior facilities and Van Matre Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital are new areas of concern. They join a growing list of nursing homes, senior centers and other congregate facilities that have seen COVID cases and deaths. Also on the list are Alden Alma Nelson Manor, Amberwood Care Centre, Anam Care Center, Goldie B. Floberg Center, Milestone, River Bluff Nursing Home and the Rockford Rescue Mission.

Pritzker was asked during his Wednesday press briefing about models he’s been following that project Illinois will reach a peak in new cases by mid-May and not mid-April. He did not specify which models he’s using, but said he regularly consults with experts at Northestern University, University of Chicago, and Southern Illinois University, among others. And he stressed that the numbers he sees are not set in stone.

“I think one of the things that maybe isn’t widely understood,” Pritzker said, “as these models are, they change literally every day. (There’s) nothing exact about these models and it’s really important for people to understand that I’m estimating. We all are. Even the modelers are estimating and the purpose for the estimating isn’t so much that we know exactly what date, some date, at which we might peak.”

He said he primarily uses models to gauge hospital capacity and whether there is enough health care workers to treat COVID patients.

Pritzker said he’s not yet examined a proposal submitted by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara to reopen small businesses. McNamara has asked the governor to either allow nonessential businesses to open with social-distancing restrictions or order big-box stores to stop selling nonessential items like clothing, shoes and gardening supplies.

“Mayor McNamara is a very thoughtful mayor,” Pritzker said. “And I certainly want to look at how they are configuring their suggestion.”

The governor said he’s spoken to mayors across the state about different concerns and is taking them all into consideration as he decides how to adjust the stay-at-home order.

Meanwhile, Rockford will be now be the site of a COVID-19 drive-through testing facilities. Testing will be available at the UIC Health Sciences Campus, 1601 Parkview Ave., by the end of the week. Staff with have the capacity to test 500 people per day.

As of this report, 35,108 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 statewide. About 40% of the state’s infections are in Chicago. There are 238 cases in Winnebago County. Boone County has seen 45 cases and six deaths.

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