Winnebago County

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.”

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

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.

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. 

City of Rockford

Rockford and Winnebago County are working to open several sectors of the local community by the end of the month. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement at a Monday press conference.

“The three areas include restaurants. They include child care facilities and youth programs, and houses of worship."  

McNamara says the openings are being considered as a result of improved COVID-19 metrics.

IDPH

The Winnebago County Health Department received COVID-19 test results from the original state-contracted lab for tests done at the Community Based Testing Site located at the UIC Health Sciences Campus between April 24 and May 6. According to a news release, the health department is currently working to contact all patients who didn’t receive their test results from that time, regardless of whether the result is negative or positive for COVID-19. The release says the influx of new results will result in a higher-than-normal confirmed COVID-19 case count once the data is compiled.

Winnebago County announced 54 new COVID-19 cases Monday, putting the total number of cases at 616.  Dr. Sandra Martell is with the Winnebago County Health Department. She said many of these cases were in areas of concern, such as nursing homes. 

"I want to remind the public, we anticipated more cases with more testing, and our modeling indicated this time frame would be our peak, even with social distancing practices in place," Martell said. "So we continue to monitor and watch over the next week.”

The Winnebago County Health Department reported eight new positive cases of COVID-19 in the area  Monday. This brings the total number of positive cases reported up to 113. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell says the rate of positive cases among tests has been on the rise. But she says they’ve become easier to follow thanks to community interviews and contact. She says those contacted by the health department have been very cooperative.

Pixabay

Winnebago County’s health administrator says residents can do better.

Sandra Martell held a news conference Thursday to provide an update on prevention efforts in the county.

She was joined by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. Martell shared the results of a “social distancing” scoreboard.

"I’m disappointed," Martell said. "Winnebago County only has a B-. When you think about that, and I’m going to borrow a phrase from the mayor, ‘B’s get degrees,' but here, 'B’s may get disease.'”

Note: This case is not yet reflected in the IDPH numbers.

The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting a death related to COVID-19. County Health Director Sandra Martell says the identity of the man is not being released, but he was in his 60s.  

“We would like to share a statement from the family: 'He was a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend,'” Martell said. “And I would like to add 'a member of our community.'”

Guy Stephens

Voters in Winnebago County will decide whether to increase its sales tax by half a percent. The money would fund mental health services. 

Mary Ann Abate spent 41 years in mental health services as a social worker in Rockford, 25 of them on call.

“So every night," she said, "when anyone dealt with a psychiatric emergency in the emergency rooms from Janet Wattles Center or Rosecrance after that, I was consulted.”

Abate said that gave her a good idea of what is lacking in the county’s mental health system of care. 

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross will not run for election next year. She announced through a news release Thursday that her tenure as State’s Attorney will end in December 2020.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross announced Thursday the terms of an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by Sheriff Gary Caruana against Winnebago County, County Board Chairman Frank Haney and County Treasurer Susan Goral.   

Jenna Dooley

Longtime political observers are concerned about a lack of transparency and infighting among Winnebago County leaders.

This week, Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and a group of voters sued county board members in federal court. They argue the board systematically stripped Haney of executive powers since he took office in 2016. It's the latest in a string of complaints lodged within county leadership.

"We've completely distracted, distorted and perverted the way we do business. You know, nobody really feels good," said Haney.

: http://www.healthcarereportcard.illinois.gov/maps

Visits to the emergency room for asthma vary widely across Illinois. One reason could be how it's treated.

Asthma is an inflammatory lung condition that can cause bouts of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, a patient's airways swell shut, requiring a visit to the emergency room.

The Illinois Hospital Report Card tracks these types of visits. Between 2015-2017, Stephenson County had among the highest rates of visits in the state.

Courtesy Haunted Rockford

A Rockford author is speaking later this week about unsolved crimes in Winnebago County’s history.

Kathi Kresol has written two books on the history of Rockford and Winnebago County.  She’s also the founder of Haunted Rockford, and she writes a newspaper column about some of the area’s unsolved crimes called “Voices From the Grave.”

Pixabay

In the midst of summer’s high temperatures, DeKalb, Winnebago and Boone Counties are ensuring the public is safe in times of extreme heat.

The Rockford City Market is moving many of its vendors inside the market building and under the Rockford City Market Pavilion on Friday due to the ongoing heatwave. 

The DeKalb County Health Department is sharing tips to help the public stay cool, hydrated, and informed.   

The tips include staying in air-conditioned locations, drinking more water than usual and checking local news outlets for extreme heat warnings. 

Susan Stephens

The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have kicked off their summer produce collection for the “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program. 

It’s meant to inspire gardeners and farmers to “plant an extra row” to provide fruits and vegetables for people in need.  All the food collected for the program is donated to local food pantries. 

Margaret Larson is the County Extension Director for University of Illinois.  She says they have partners in the community who weigh the produce, keep track of it, and deliver it to the pantry at the end of the day.

Northern Illinois Police Officers Cleared In Shootings

Jul 3, 2019
facebook.com/RockfordIllinoisPoliceDepartment

 

Two Rockford police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing in deadly force cases.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross announced at a Tuesday news conference that Rockford City Officer Matthew Krantz was justified in the use of deadly force during a December, 2018 incident resulting in the death of Kerry Blake, Jr.

Hite Ross also said Rockford City Officer Tim Stec was justified in the use of deadly force in a February incident resulting in the death of Randy Allan Pierson.

Rockford Mourns At Vigil For Homeless People

Dec 24, 2018
Sarah Jesmer

The coroner's office says nearly 3,000 people in Winnebago County died within the last year. 45 of them were part of the area's homeless population. That's according to Carpenter's Place, a non-profit homeless shelter in Rockford.

 

A small wood-panelled room tucked away inside Carpenter's Place overflowed with people last week. The crowd was mourning for the homeless people in the community who passed in 2018. Some who were remembered were recently housed but were still receiving services from local agencies.

Sarah Jesmer

Marilyn Hite Ross will be Winnebago County's new State's Attorney. She currently is serving as the Chief of the Criminal Bureau. She was confirmed by the Winnebago County Board on Tuesday night with a vote of 17 to 3.

Hite Ross says she wants to champion issues related to domestic violence survivor support and a more transparent police force.

She also says she would love to see more long term mental health facilities. She said some in the criminal justice system should really be in mental health facilities.

State's Attorney Resigns To Become A Judge

Nov 14, 2018
Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office

Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato submitted his resignation to County Board Chairman Frank Haney.

Bruscato's last day as State's Attorney is December 3, when he will be sworn in as a judge for Illinois' 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Winnebago and Boone counties. Bruscato has served as State's Attorney since he was first elected in 2008. His current term doesn't expire until 2020.

Wikimedia

An emerging health care approach factors in the lasting effects of trauma.

In 2016, the Winnebago County Health Department asked the community about top health concerns so it could put together a Community Health Improvement Plan. Several issues made it to the top of the list.

Cynthia Hall is the Department’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. 

“And they told us three things," she explained. "Mental health was one of them. Maternal and child health was another, and violence was the third.”

Steven Depolo / Flickr

Hepatitis is a well-known disease of the liver and for which people receive vaccines as children. But the shots only combat the A and B variants. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh has more on Hepatitis C and how it’s being managed across northern Illinois.

Hepatitis C attacks the liver just like variants A and B. But the virus is unique enough that no one has developed a vaccine yet. This means much more work needs to be done to screen for cases and get patients into treatment programs.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Voters in both Winnebago and McHenry counties overwhelmingly approved merging the office of Recorder of Deeds into the office of County Clerk in referenda on the March 20 primary ballot.

About 70 percent of Winnebago County voters chose to combine the offices in a binding referendum.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney says he knew most citizens agreed with the consolidation proposal, but he says he had no idea that so many residents would be in favor of it.

wchd.org

Leaders in education, social services, and government in Winnebago County are trying to work together on a common thread they see running through their community’s biggest challenges – trauma. 

"Police Line / Police Tape" By Flickr User Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) http://bit.ly/2FOHEMY

Officials say the two sons of a former Rock Valley College professor who died in an apparent murder-suicide this weekend were not in school Thursday or Friday.

The Rockford Register Star reports P.S. Ruckman’s ex-wife Heidi called the school Friday to ask about the children's whereabouts.

Winnebago County Board Chair Defends Administrator Settlement Agreement

Mar 1, 2018

Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney has hit back at a series of reports on a settlement agreement with a former county administrator.

Amanda Hamaker left her post at the beginning of November in what the chairman called a “mutual agreement” at the time. In an Oct. 30 report from the Register Star, Haney said that details of a separation were being worked out, but no details were provided at the time.

Winnebago County jail

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney reached an agreement with Sheriff Gary Caruana to hire 10 additional corrections officers at the county jail.

The agreement comes as more than 60 complaints have been filed over allegedly excessive and prolonged prisoner lockdowns resulting from staff cuts Caruana made when his department budget was slashed by $4.3 million this fiscal year.

 

Mayo Clinic News Network

Government officials in Winnebago County announced Tuesday they are taking aim at the pharmaceutical industry in the fight against opioid abuse. 

 

Rockford and County officials said they intend to pursue legal action against companies they believe helped enable the growing opioid addiction crisis. 

 

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