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Health administrator 'fairly certain' stricter mitigations coming this week

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A health department administrator is pretty sure more mitigation restrictions are on the horizon as cases continue to rise in the region.

“I’m fairly certain,” Ogle County Health Department Public administrator Kyle Auman said Thursday. “I talked with the Illinois Department of Public Health last night and other county administrators last night, and I’m not sure where we’ll land in mitigation, but I’m sure it’ll be more. It could be crowd size or business restrictions. I think we’ll hear tomorrow or by the weekend.”

Region 1 includes Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties. Mitigations including outlawing indoor dining were handed down Oct. 3.

The region was given 14 days by the state to get three days of a rolling 7-day positivity average below 6.5 percent. That seems like it will be out of reach, resulting in more mitigations.

“It’s only gone up since,” Auman said. “It will be in the 10s or 11s like it has been.”

Ogle County is the second-lowest positivity rate in the region at 7.9 percent, but Auman said cases are still “creeping up” and he doesn't see that slowing down “any time soon.”

Auman said his county and the state are seeing higher numbers than it did when cases peaked in April.

“When things peaked then, we still didn’t see the double-digit numbers each day,” Auman said. “It’s been this way going on 2-3 weeks. This is the worst it’s been.”

Many bars and restaurants in Ogle County chose to defy the latest round of mitigations and stay open for indoor dining and drinking. As a result, Auman said the OCHD has issued 37 notices of noncompliance to Ogle County businesses.

No closure orders have been issued yet. Auman is unsure if any will be, and said that depends on how businesses respond and what his inspector returns to those businesses. Complaints of noncompliance haven’t leveled off, either, he said.

“Complaints have been pretty consistent,” Auman said. “We receive quite a few every day.”

Auman said last week that hospitals could be a part of additional mitigations. They could go back to only allowing essential procedures. The recent increase in cases has him concerned for the state of area medical facilities.

As of Thursday, area hospitals were at 34 percent availability for med surge beds and 40 percent for ICU beds. In the last few days, Auman has seen patients being shipped out of the area to available beds in the suburbs and Wisconsin.

“Rockford helps support several surrounding counties,” Auman said. “Even outside of our region, we’ll lose those hospital resources as things get worse. We’ll have to find where we’ll send patients. It’s a drain on resources, and we’re not even into flu season yet.”

Auman also said it’s been a strain on his department to work on COVID-19 responsibilities while trying to tackle usual responsibilities, such as flu season.

“It’s a huge burden,” Auman said. “It’s been eight months. And now we’re seeing less and less compliance and people don’t want to work with us. We can’t do this on our own. We need the public’s help.”

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