McDonough, Schuyler, Hancock, Warren, and Fulton counties each reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus this week. Other counties in the region that have also reported cases during the pandemic include Lee, Des Moines, Knox, Mason, and Adams.
The most recent figures for Illinois counties can be found on the state’s Coronavirus Response website.
McDonough County reported its case Friday. A county resident in his 40s was tested in another county and found to be infected.
“Do not panic. Do not spread rumors. This will not last forever. It will pass. Please stay home,” said County Health Department Administrator Lynette Cale during a Friday afternoon news conference.
She said the man is recovering at home. She declined to say where in McDonough County he lives or which county conducted the test. She did confirm contact tracing has been completed in the case.
Cale said 52 people have been tested in McDonough County. 50 results came back negative while the other two are still pending.
She is not surprised a COVID-19 case surfaced in the county and said there are probably more. “It should be assumed that it’s everywhere at this point,” she said.
Cale said we are reaching an important moment in the battle to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. She said even though this is a holiday weekend for many people, they should not participate in large gatherings
“As difficult as it is, we are asking people to avoid having their traditional Easter services, Easter family gatherings, and Easter activities and (instead) continue to stay home,” Cale said.
“Avoid non-essential travel and limit gatherings to family currently residing in your home. Attend church online. Visit family through videos, chat, and phone.”
She urged people to follow CDC guidelines and Illinois’ stay-at-home order. She said those will help reduce the need for the county to get deep into its pandemic response plan.
McDonough County’s Preparedness
Cale and Edgar Rodriguez, Director of McDonough County's Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA), were fairly guarded in their responses to questions about the county’s preparedness.
Rodriguez said McDonough District Hospital has 60 beds, though it might not be able to dedicate all of those to COVID-19 patients if the county is hit with an influx of cases.
“We still have emergencies in the community. We still have people having heart attacks and appendicitis and (other health problems). So emergencies will use some of those beds,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the county has several plans in place depending on the level of need, and said there are other places where patients could be housed if the need arises.
When asked how many cases the pandemic response plan projects the county could handle in a worst case scenario, Lynette Cale responded, “I don’t know that we have a number in the plan. We have plans for how much space we have and then plans for transferring and things like that. So there’s not an “X” number. We’ve talked about alternative ways to expand those numbers in a pinch.”
When asked about personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, Edgar Rodriguez replied, “We are still waiting for some equipment that we requested from the state. As far as personal protective equipment, we do have sufficient on hand for our hospital and our first responders, and as we speak we’re getting some new shipments in as well. The equipment is coming down. It’s just not at the speed that we would like.
“I like to (tell) people that if we have a tornado in our city, for example, we could reach out to all the surrounding communities to ask for equipment. We don’t have that luxury in this kind of event because everybody’s getting affected at the same time. So we have to be patient and be conservative with the equipment that we have.”
He said people in the community are stepping up and producing masks to help protect the general population.
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