Winnebago officials preparing for significant changes to upcoming school year

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — “This fall won’t be school as usual from public health perspective,” Dr. Sandra Martell, Director of the Winnebago County Health Department said on Monday, as health officials prepare for a significant overhaul of the way school is conducted in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Martell said the school calendar may be affected by restrictions mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the option of ending the first semester around the Thanksgiving holiday, or eliminating traditional breaks.

She also said students may stay in one classroom with teachers rotating in and out during the day.

School districts are preparing for the possibility of rolling back to a 100% distance learning situation, should infection rates rise.

Martell announced 55 new cases in Winnebago on Monday, “a significant increase,” she said. There were no additional deaths reported.

Winnebago currently has reported 3,189 cases overall and has administered 39,000 tests. The positivity rate is currently 2.9% for a rolling 7 day average.

Several facilities have been added to the WCHD’s places of concern, including an unnamed Mosaic location, Rosecrance’s Griffin Williamson campus, and Carriage Rehab and Healthcare on Mulford Road.

However, Anam Care, Milestone, Stepping Stones, The Atrium, and Wesley Willows are no longer considered places of concern.

“Our recovery is in our hands and our face masks, literally,” Martell said.

Officials urged Winnebago County residents to move social events outdoors after citing a Japanese study which showed that out of 7,000 cases of COVID-19, only one was transmitted outdoors.

Martell said residents should get together with family and friends outdoors, as well as dining or other events. “Think outdoors with distancing,” she said.

Martell also warned to avoid areas and visitors from states with higher risk areas, such as Arizona, Florida, California, Louisiana, NC, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah. Travelers to these states are encouraged to self quarantine for 14 days.

She also stressed that individuals should rely on health department guidance and shouldn’t decide for themselves when it is safe to return to work.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said it is important to pay attention to how neighboring states are handling the pandemic since a resurgence in Illinois is still possible.

“We knew back in March, this was going to be a long and incredibly difficult journey,” he said.

Mayor McNamara encouraged community members to keep up the individual efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

“We do have long days ahead of us in this pandemic. While we see signs of progress, we have to remain vigilant and allowed us to progress to stage 4. It’s simple things when you think about it. It’s wearing your face covering. It’s washing your hands frequently. It’s bringing things outdoors as Dr. Martell said. And it’s practicing social distancing whenever you can.”

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