Rockford, Illinois News

Winnebago County virus cases continue to climb

ROCKFORD — Winnebago County’s COVID-19 positivity rate continued to climb Friday as officials reported 84 additional infections.

The latest numbers show the county’s positivity rate is now 5.4%, two percentage points higher than it was March 23.

Officials say the uptick can be attributed to a slow vaccination rollout and the return to Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois reopening plan.

“We have to continue our social mitigation strategies,” Winnebago County Health Department Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell said. “We need to continue to wear face coverings outside of our home, even after we vaccinate. We have to maintain six feet of social distancing, limiting contacts outside of our immediate households.”

Martell added that non-essential travel should be avoided.

“I know this is spring break and everyone feels the need to get away,” she said. “But, travel increases the risk of transmission. Avoid crowed, indoor settings. Now is not the time.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,235 new infections and 24 virus-related deaths Friday. The state’s seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from March 26 to April 1 is 3.5%.

“We have a long way to go,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said. “The next four to eight weeks will tell a lot in our fight against COVID-19. We are seeing a slight increase in positivity rates, total cases and also in hospitalizations.”

As of Thursday night, 1,445 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized across the state. Of those, 314 were in the ICU and 129 were on ventilators.

Meanwhile, the state has named Winnebago County a hotspot for a potential resurgence. But, McNamara believes a surge can be avoided if residents utilize Rockford’s two mass vaccination sites and follow basic guidelines.

“Although we have been named a hotspot, this time is a little different,” the mayor said. “We have more tools at our disposal. We know more information about this novel virus. This is on us. So, I am asking all citizens in Winnebago County, please do the basic things that absolutely you can do. I know some may get frustrated that they are not getting into the (vaccination) site on their time frame, but understand there are still things you can do to help fight COVID-19. Wear that face covering. Wash your hands. Follow social distancing. Avoid mass gatherings when you’re able.”