Boone County working to bring down region’s highest coronavirus positivity rate

Local News

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Boone County has had the highest COVID-19 testing positivity rate in the region, hitting a high of more than 31% in mid-November.

“Many of our residents work in other counties, so they may be going across the region to work, or even crossing over into Wisconsin and then returning to our community,” said Boone County Health Department administrator, Amanda Mehl.

Boone County is continuing to fight the spread of COVID-19, with results cutting their positivity rate in half over the past two months.

“Through contract tracing efforts, really, what we’ve seen [is] the spread in work places, for sure, whether it’s the manufacturing industry, the bar and restaurant industry, schools… We have to keep in mind, people work in schools in other counties. We’ve seen spread come from healthcare settings, which shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Mehl said.

About 20% of Boone County’s population is Hispanic, which was a worry for the health department.

“We discovered, back in October, that Hispanic/Latinos were 6 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white counterparts, so we’ve been working hard to address that,” said Mehl.

Because of that, the health department has developed “Forward Boone County,” an initiative to educate residents about the coronavirus.

Pamela Lopez-Fettes, executive director of the economic development organization Growth Dimensions, said, “We’re also working with the community in order to provide them with resources available to educate to distribute face masks to provide them with information that’s pertinent to them.”

Mehl added, “We have a much better pulse on how much virus is circulating through the community, and a more accurate picture of what our rates are, because we were able to increase our testing capacity in half.”

Now, they’re turning their focus to vaccinating thousands of residents.

“We’re nervous, but excited,” Mehl said. “This is an exciting phase of the COVID pandemic because we feel like we’ll start making a measurable difference.”

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