Winnebago County hospitals ‘overrun’ with COVID-19 cases, officials say

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Hospitals in Winnebago County are being “overrun” with COVID-19 patients as the country experiences a surge of coronavirus.

Winnebago County Health Department Director Dr. Sandra Martell and OSF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Bartlett said the county is faring worse than neighboring counties, including Cook County, because a larger percentage of Winnebago County residents are unvaccinated.

“We’re seeing younger people getting sick with COVID than we did a year ago,” Bartlett said. “I can’t emphasize enough that we’re in the middle of another surge.”

Martell said two infants are currently in the ICU with COVID-19 symptoms.

Only 13% of hospitalized patients have been fully vaccinated, Martell said.

“It’s very rare for an ICU stay for people who are vaccinated,” according to Bartlett. “It’s a much milder infection if you’re vaccinated.”

Mayor Tom McNamara said Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli tested positive with COVID and was admitted to a hospital, where he received treatment

Martell said the county has been in the Illinois Department of Public Health’s High Risk of Transmission category for two months. “It’s kind of like we’re blowing through every stoplight,” she said.

The current transmission rate is 502 cases per 100,000, with a 7-day rolling positivity rate over 10%, Martell said. She added that 126 people were hospitalized for severe COVID symptoms and local emergency departments are full.

“If the surge were to get worse, we could have staffing issues,” Bartlett said.

Martell scolded residents for going out while they have been sick and potentially spreading the virus. If you’re sick, that means “no shopping, no sports, no going to the movies. It means stay home.”

She added residents shouldn’t don’t have Thanksgiving dinner, unmasked, with unvaccinated people.

“I’ve heard we’re just going to live through this and it’s not going to be a big deal,” she said. “It’s not endemic yet. It’s still controlling our lives, our businesses, our schools. We need to get control. We need to mask up, wash up, back up and vaxx up.”

“There’s growing concern” that the state could bring back restaurant closures, Martell said.

“Breakthrough infections is not a reason to be unvaccinated. We understand that immunity is waning. We had the approval of the booster dosses for everyone 18 years old and older,” Martell said. “If you’ve been six months since you’ve gotten your first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna, it’s time to get it. If it’s been two months since you got a Janssen or Johnson and Johnson, get your booster shot.”

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