Winnebago County

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 A new mental health bill making its way through the state legislature would mean millions of dollars for increased access to mental health treatment.

 

State Senator Steve Stadelman’s bill would create a roadmap for counties looking to turn local tax revenue into support for those living with substance abuse and issues related to mental health. The Rockford Democrat said counties could see an additional $14 million of aid make its way to where it’s needed most. 

 

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Winnebago County residents can now apply for financial help due to hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Winnebago County officials announced on Monday that the money is available through a federally-funded $8.3 million Emergency Rental Assistance Grant for housing stability for renters and landlords.

Anqunette Parham is with the city of Rockford’s Human Services Department. She says the city and county have already given out hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency rent assistance. 

Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Center Opens In Rockford

Feb 22, 2021
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A coronavirus mass-vaccination center opens Tuesday  in Rockford at the site of the old K-Mart on Sandy Hollow Road.

Members of the Illinois National Guard will be on hand to administer COVID-19 vaccines as they are allocated. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate Nadeau, at a press conference covered by WREX, said this is part of a greater state effort to roll out vaccinations.

“We have a long way to go to get everyone vaccinated, but this site is just one example of how we’re going to close that gap and get [the] vaccine to the most needed.” 

The Winnebago County Health Department announced mixed progress this week when it comes to COVID-19.

At a Wednesday press conference covered by WREX-TV, the Department noted that it did not receive its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. So they had to postpone some residents’ appointments as a result. However, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara complimented a low positivity rate of 4.4% .

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected incidences of substance abuse, and how people struggling with addiction are treated. 

Social distancing and isolation have become everyday features of the pandemic. These stresses, along with factors like job loss, have resulted in more instances of substance abuse. That’s according to Northwestern Medicine Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marissa Kirch. She said more people are drinking greater amounts of alcohol, or taking up the habit if they haven’t before.

Winnebago County Ramps Up Vaccination Efforts

Jan 27, 2021

A northern Illinois county is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts as it moves to Phase 1B of the State’s plan.

Winnebago County has already administered the full vaccine course to at least 5,000 people. The first group consisted of health care personnel and those in long-term care facilities. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said health care providers will reach out directly to the next group. There won’t be walk-ins.

The annual tally of people who are homeless in the Rockford region is going to be more challenging this year. That’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

 

Rockford city officials and partner agencies are gearing up for the "point-in-time count." The survey of people experiencing homelessness takes place once a year over a 24-hour period. The PIT covers Winnebago, Boone and DeKalb counties.

Angie Walker is a housing advocate with the City of Rockford. She says the coronavirus adds a level of difficulty. 

The Winnebago County Health Department reported Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccination is proceeding smoothly. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said among the different health care systems, more than 10,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. During a COVID-19 update livestreamed on WREX, Martell announced 104 new cases.

"And unfortunately, we have lost two additional of our community residents, which brings our total death count to 380," she said.

Connie Kuntz

This summer civil unrest peaked across the country and police relations were at the core of the controversy. A northern Illinois women’s empowerment organization is offering a training that could help Boone and Winnebago County law enforcement understand their communities better.

4 New COVID-19 Deaths Reported In Winnebago County

Dec 9, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported four new coronavirus deaths Monday. This brings the total up to 296 area casualties. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell also reported new cases in the area.

“We’re reporting 121 new cases," she said. "Our total case count is 20,043.”  

Winnebago County is one of 50 counties in the state with the highest death rate from COVID-19. Current plans would prioritize the first round of vaccines to these counties. Local health departments are responsible for these initial allocations.

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Many races in Illinois won’t see results until next Tuesday. 

Winnebago County received many more mail-in ballots than previous years due to the coronavirus. The backlog of ballots is keeping election authorities busy trying to clear it. Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow said it’s important to not fall for fake reports since final election results aren’t out yet. 

470 New COVID Cases, Two Deaths In Winnebago County

Nov 2, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department Monday announced 470 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths from the virus. This puts the total number of cases at 11,472. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said it was imperative for residents not to ignore mitigation restrictions.

"With a positivity rate of almost 15%, you’re putting your community at risk. You’re putting all of our businesses at risk. And we’ve talked about this before. You’re putting our children and the schools at risk."

Some Health Officials Find Their Hands Tied On COVID-19 Restrictions

Oct 30, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Sandra Martell is in a tough spot. As public health administrator in northern Illinois’ Winnebago County, Martell was threatened with lawsuits from several area bar owners after she included them on a list of businesses allegedly defying the governor’s orders to halt indoor dining.

The county is part of a region that faced tougher restrictions this month after the rate of positive COVID-19 tests rose above 8%.

Winnebago County Reports 525 New Coronavirus Cases

Oct 19, 2020
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The Winnebago County Health Department Monday announced 525 new cases of COVID-19. 

That number represents new cases from Friday and over the weekend. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this was concerning, especially after reporting more than 200 new cases over a three-day period last week.

“We are reporting no new deaths and our hospital capacity has stabilized over the last week," she said. "But we are in a very critical time frame where we have both seasonal influenza beginning to rear, as well as our COVID-19.”

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Some Illinois counties have lower pandemic death tolls than others. Part of the differences come from demographics. And just like on the national scene, Illinois results depend a lot on prevention efforts.

Winnebago County and Champaign County both have a mix of urban and rural populations. Winnebago County has nearly a third more COVID-19 cases than Champaign County, and six times the number of deaths.

203 New Coronavirus Cases In Winnebago County

Oct 5, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 203 new cases of COVID-19 from Saturday to Monday.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell announced this while fielding questions about mitigation measures imposed on the county by the state health department.  

“Our total positives now is at 6,685, and over 34% of our population has been tested to date.”

Paul Carpenter 2020 Website

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross is defending her decision to dismiss an assistant state’s attorney who is also a current candidate to succeed her in the office.

 

 

Hite Ross removed Assistant State’s Attorney Paul Carpenter from his post over the weekend. She said all employees in her office are employed "at will" which means they can be dismissed at her discretion at any time.

 

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The Winnebago County Health Department reported scores of new cases of COVID-19 at a press conference Monday. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said a lot of the transmission is due to Labor Day weekend activities. The ages of those infected vary.

“And those ages are anywhere from two years to 68," she said. "This brings our total to 4,794 cases.” 

Martell is also worried about an increasing positivity rate.

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There’s new information known about COVID-19 cases associated with the Fiat Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere. 

 

Health officials from the Boone and Winnebago county health departments have been working closely with Fiat Chrysler to identify cases of COVID-19 at the Belvidere plant. The goal is to determine whether cases among workers were through community spread, or if there was an outbreak within the plant itself.

 

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The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting a preliminary count Friday of 44 new cases of coronavirus and a positivity rate of 6%.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this comes as Illinois is at risk for a surge in cases over the Labor Day weekend. It’s traditionally the last major summer weekend for people to get together. 

9 New COVID-19 Cases In Winnebago County

Aug 31, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department on Monday reported 9 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total case count since the pandemic began up to 4,233.  Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said that it’s important for everyone who’s been exposed to get tested, even if they’re asymptomatic.

“Approximately 22% of our population has sought out testing," she said. "Total tests performed to date in Winnebago County are over 65,000. “

17 New Covid Cases, 1 New Death In Winnebago County

Aug 25, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department on Tuesday reported 17 additional cases of COVID. This brings the county’s total health case count since the pandemic began to four thousand eighty-seven. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martel said unfortunately, that wasn’t the only change.

“Once again we have one additional death to report, and our community mourns the loss of one member," she said. "No matter how small the number, we continue to mourn those losses."

22 New COVID-19 Cases Reported In Winnebago County

Aug 14, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martel said there were no new deaths.

“That brings our total case count to 3,828. As of this day too, over 56,000 tests have been done, representing almost 20% of our population.”

The numbers come as school districts in Winnebago County are preparing to reopen. Several are offering the choice of remote or in-person learning for students.

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Over the weekend, State Representative John Cabello replied to a Facebook user who asked him if, “now is it time to lock and load? Asking for a friend.” Cabello replied to the comment by saying, “not yet but be ready.” 

Winnebago State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross said in a press release that the representative’s rhetoric is unacceptable. She said that, "In my office, if anyone made comments of that nature, they would no longer be employed by my office."

Winnebago County Reports 55 New COVID-19 Cases

Jul 13, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said the number of cases is a jump up from recent daily reports. The county’s total is now stands at 3,189.  

“The good news though, is that our positivity rate continues to decline. We’re at 2.9% for a rolling five-day average, but our overall positivity rate is 8%," she said. 

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Two Rockford-area nonprofits and a local business are teaming up to support artists and art organizations in Winnebago County. 

Winnebago County Announces New COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

May 28, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 69 new cases of COVID-19 in the area.

This brings the total number of cases to 2,062.  The number of recoveries is now at 640.  But Director Sandra Martell said it wasn’t all good news.

“Unfortunately and sadly, we are reporting four additional deaths, three of which are associated with a congregate setting. That brings our total deaths to 58.”

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Various businesses will start reopening as part of the Restore Illinois plan beginning Friday. 

State guidelines vary based upon the business and area. Winnebago County Health Department Director Sandra Martell said some things will remain the same.

“Every single one of us needs to be masking and using face covering when we’re out in public, social distancing of a minimum of six feet, sanitizing surfaces, frequent handwashing, and staying home when you’re sick,” she said.

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with both praise and criticism. WNIJ’s Peter Medlin has the first part of our series “The Hot Seat” talking to leaders, like the Winnebago County Sheriff, about the process behind those big decisions.

Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled an executive order to keep businesses from opening before Illinois reached the next phase of reopening. Business owners could be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the stay-at-home order.

Winnebago County Announces 8 New Coronavirus Deaths

May 21, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department announced 8 more coronavirus deaths.

County Chairman Frank Haney went into detail in a Thursday press conference.

“The dates of death range from May 17th through the 21st. The age range is age 50 through age 98. These deaths have all been confirmed as COVID-19 by the coroner today.”

This brings the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Winnebago County to 52. 

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