Winnebago County coronavirus testing centers not being used to capacity, Dr. Martell says

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Dr. Sandra Martell, director of the Winnebago County Health Department, announced 23 new cases on Thursday, for a total of 426 confirmed cases in the county.

She also encouraged anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to seek testing at one of Rockford’s test facilities, and said any healthcare workers or essential workers should be tested as a precaution.

The testing centers are set up to handle up to 500 tests per day, and Martell said they are not being used to full capacity.

Researchers have said testing 15 percent of the population helps determine the roadmap to reopening communities in the United States.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney said more than 30 million people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began, more than the metropolitan areas of New York City and Chicago combined.

During his Thursday briefing, Gov. JB Pritzker called Winnebago County a hot spot for coronavirus infections in the state.

Haney said it would not be a “responsible step” to re-open the economy at this point, but he said the state legislature should revisit the oversight of leaving Rock Cut State Park off a list of parks which can reopen on May 1st.

Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) is calling on the Winnebago County Health Department for clarity when reporting COVID-19 related deaths.

Sosnowski says the health department is blurring the lines between those who have actually died from the virus and people who didn’t.

Sosnowski is asking that only deaths of people who tested positive be counted as a coronavirus death.

On Thursday, Haney said those reports are coming from the Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz, whom Haney called one of the most honest public servants he has ever known, and is unaware of any inflation of deaths attributed to the virus.

There have been 14 deaths from coronavirus in Winnebago County to date.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara had harsh words for Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea’s decision to discontinue care for 66,000 local Medicaid patients last week.

“Taking this action during a global pandemic leaves me confused and disappointed,” McNamara said. “This is a decision that puts the dollar first…This decision puts lives at risk.”

Mercyhealth will continue to accept IlliniCare, Meridian, and Molina patients through July 21st, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicaid patients through October 22nd.

Citing a reduction in income from Medicaid and other health insurance providers, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercyhealth said it would be instituting reductions of 10% to leadership system-wide, in addition to some physicians.

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services spokesman John Hoffman said in a statement that “While HFS has not received formal notification (that Mercyhealth is dropping coverage), we are deeply disappointed that this time would be chosen to leave the program and want to assure our managed care members that we are focused on doing all we can to make sure they will continue to receive care.”

“So, shame on Javon for his recent decision,” McNamara added.

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