Winnebago County a ‘hotspot’ for resurgence of new COVID-19 strain, Martell says

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County has been identified as a hotspot for the resurgence of COVID-19 through a new strain, according to Winnebago County Health Department Director Dr. Sandra Martell.

Last week, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker authorized Rapid Response Vaccination Teams to travel to five counties in Region 1, including Winnebago County, to head off signs of a possible COVID-19 resurgence.

In addition to the mass vaccination site on Sandy Hollow Road in Rockford, Carroll, Ogle, Boone, Lee and Whiteside County will be allocated extra doses of vaccine.

Martell and representatives from the Illinois National Guard held a weekly briefing from a new vaccination site at New Zion Baptist Church, 4747 W. Riverside Blvd, on Monday.

The site has opened in Rockford with the intent of reaching African American and Latino residents, who have been designated as being at high risk for COVID-19.

The new site location was chosen to address health equity concerns, Martell said, saying that 24% of all cases in Winnebago County are African American, despite that ethnicity making up only 12% of the population.

“We are very pleased to be able to be a part of the solution as we as a community continue to fight this virus,” said Pastor K. Edward Copeland. “We know this is life or death.”

He continued by saying fear and ignorance within minority communities have fueled the spread of the virus.

“We’ve been praying for vaccines. Now that they are here, please get them,” Copeland said. “We can conquer it if we come together.”

Martell said 18% of all cases are Hispanic or Latino, despite being 11% of the population.

She continued to say 6.5% of all vaccines have been administered to African Americans, and 4.5% of vaccines have been distributed to Latino or Hispanic residents, saying “we have miles to go to bridge the racial gap.”

She also said age rates were disproportionately affected, with African American cases tending to be younger than their Caucasian counterparts.

Martell said education, housing, healthcare access, transportation are some of the systemic issues that place People of Color at a heightened risk for the disease.

Citing an NAACP survey, Martell said it is critical of county government to “acknowledge deep historical traumas that led to distrust of healthcare systems,” and warned that social media is “not the source of all truth.”

“Don’t delay your COVID-19 vaccination because you are afraid. We are trained and prepared to be able to work with you,” Martell said.

Martell said the county has 136 new cases over the past week, with no new deaths. The testing positivity rate now sits at 4%.

“We have to continue our social mitigation strategies,” of wearing a mask and social distancing, Martell added.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara added that more than 27,500 people in Winnebago County have been vaccinated at the mass vaccination site at Sandy Hollow Road since it opened on February 23rd.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 1,761 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 5 additional deaths.

Currently, the Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting a total of 1,239,589 cases, including 21,256 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 49,449 specimens for a total of 20,183,744.

As of last night, 1,352 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 280 patients were in the ICU and 128 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

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