Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Illinois governor: Winnebago County a COVID-19 hotspot

By Jim Hagerty

CHICAGO – Winnebago County is considered a COVID-19 hotspot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.

“Rockford is a hotspot in the state,” Pritzker said. “Winnebago County has quite a number of infections.”

As of this report, 426 people in Winnebago County have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the coronavirus outbreak was deemed a pandemic last month. The county has seen 14 fatalities.

As in other counties, almost all COVID-related fatalities locally have involved at least one comorbidity, and most of the patients have been older than 65.

“It’s something that we are watching very closely,” the governor said. “It’s why people who live in that area and surrounding counties need to be extraordinary careful.”

The pandemic has hit congregate communities especially hard. Dozens of cases and the majority of local deaths are linked to Winnebago County’s nursing-home population.

Alden Alma Nelson Manor, Amberwood Care Centre, Anam Care, East Bank Center and River Bluff Nursing Home are areas of concern. Milestone, Rockford Rescue Mission and the Winnebago County Jail have also seen cases and are being monitored closely.

And while some area leaders are calling for Illinois to move to a regional approach to re-open the economy, Board Chairman Frank Haney said Winnebago County isn’t ready. The Republican said he is concerned about the increase in new COVID-19 cases and whether people are adhering to guidelines set by state and federal leaders.

“There is nothing we would like to do right now than to open up 100% of our community,” Haney said. “However, that would not be the responsible step. We shouldn’t be talking about 100% opening up our society or our community right now. When it’s being reported in the Chicago media that Winnebago County, the community I grew up in and serve now doesn’t meet national guidelines to open, I don’t think anyone’s playing games with that. I wish I was hearing differently from our local folks on those local metrics.”

Haney was referring to a report that Winnebago County received an “F” grade for social distancing, according to Unicast’s Social Distancing Scoreboard, that was picked up by regional media.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,563 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 141 new fatalities, including a Winnebago County woman in her 70s and 91 people in Cook County.

As of this report, 52,918 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, either by lab test or presumptively based on symptoms. That number also includes those who have recovered from the disease.

There have been 2,355 COVID-related deaths in Illinois to date.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 13,200 specimens for a total of 269,867.

There have been 4,913 COVID-19 tests administered in Winnebago County, a regional population center of about 287,000.

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