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Overwhelmed: Health department reports more than 100 active cases in county


GALENA–The Jo Daviess County Board of Health heard a bleak COVID update from health department staff at the Wednesday, Jan. 5 meeting.

According to Lori Stangl, clinician, there were over 100 active cases in the county as of Jan. 5.

Stangl noted one of the major changes that could impact the county in the upcoming weeks is the centralization of contact tracing.

Over the last 22 months, contact tracing was specifically assigned to local health departments. This month, Stangl said, the state will move to a statewide call center.

“We are not sure how this will look for us yet,” said Stangl.

“The goal is that the state is trying to take the load off local health departments,” said Sandra Schleicher, public health administrator. “If there is no call back, calls will be directed to us at that point.”

Schleicher noted the statewide system was supposed to be in place the week prior to the meeting, but there are still some issues being worked out.

Another topic of discussion was that home test results do not count toward the county’s total unless they are self reported by the individual.

“Some people do self-report, but they are not entered into the system,” said Schleicher. “People who test at home are encouraged to go to their provider for a second test but the providers are overwhelmed. Everyone is so overwhelmed.”

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Some board members asked if testing at home should be encouraged.

“Testing at home is better than not knowing,” said Stangl.

Schleicher also noted she is working with county administrator Scott Toot on a vaccination requirement policy for county employees as the county employs over 100 people.

“They would fall under the federal requirement,” said Schleicher.

Board chair Peg Dittmar asked about hospitalizations and whether the county is being impacted at this time.

“Everywhere we are hearing about high numbers of hospitalization, especially in Europe,” said Dittmar.

“I think one of the things that is important for people to know is bed availability in the ICU,” said Tracy Bauer, board member and president of Midwest Medical Center. “We are having a lot of issues transferring people out.”

Don Hill, county board chair and board of health liaison, had concerns about people taking COVID seriously. Hill represents a district that includes Warren and Nora.

“People at my end of the county still think it’s a hoax,” said Hill. “I don’t know how they can still think that.”