Rockford, Illinois News

Winnebago, Boone counties could see more COVID-19 restrictions

ROCKFORD — Winnebago and Boone counties could see an increase in COVID-19 restorations if the number of new cases and positivity rates continue to climb.

Boone and Winnebago are among 17 counties currently at a warning level as specified in the state’s Restore Illinois plan.

Winnebago County’s current seven-day positivity rate was at 8% Friday while Boone was at 9%.

Public health officials say increases are occurring because people are gathering in large groups without face coverings and not social distancing. Some communities also lack access to convenient testing before people become symptomatic. Lack of enforcement, refusal to participate in contact tracing are also factors in the jump in cases.

The state uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased risk in the county. A county is considered at the warning level when at least two of the following metrics triggers a warning:

  • New cases per 100,000 people: If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
  • Number of deaths: This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
  • Weekly test positivity: This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
  • ICU availability: If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
  • Weekly emergency department visits: This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
  • Weekly hospital admissions: A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
  • Tests performed: This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
  • Clusters: This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.

Officials say metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as the activities they choose to do. The metrics are updated weekly, from Sunday to Saturday of the prior week.

“Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with university and college parties as well as college sports teams, large gatherings and events, bars and clubs, weddings and funerals, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, schools, and cases among the community at large,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a release.

Winnebago County Health Director Dr. Sandra Martell urged citizens to be vigilant to prevent further spread. Currently, she said, cases found in more than a dozen local schools are the result of outside activities.

“Think about your weekend getaways. Think about your family gatherings, the play groups, participation in traveling sports, private clubs, and social events such as birthday parties,” Martell said during a press conference last Monday. “I know it’s hard. It’s a pandemic. We’re tired of it. But we are doing well at holding. But all of us in the community have to do our part so people can stay safe.”

If things don’t improve locally, bars and restaurants could be required to reduce capacity, close early or shut down indoor service. Reception halls could close and gatherings could be capped at 25 people.

As of Friday, there have been 5,710 cases in Winnebago County, including 153 deaths. The recovery rate is currently at 96%. There have been 1,097 cases in Boone County, including 23 deaths.

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