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GALENA–Coronavirus numbers continue to rise in Jo Daviess County as the daily high was reached this week with 11 new cases reported on Wednesday, July 22. In a six-day period, cases jumped from 63 cases on July 17 to 85 by July 23, a 34.9 percent increase.
“The numbers coming back are dangerous,” said Dr. Ralph Losey, chief medical officer at Midwest Medical Center. “We have strong evidence the infection is coming from inside the community.”
Losey said an alarming figure is the increasing number of people who don’t know how they might have become infected with COVID.
“There are a lot of virus spreaders who don’t know they are spreading the virus,” said Losey. “These are ones we never would have discovered earlier because of limited testing. We are seeing a lot more of the virus than we were previously aware of.”
Jo Daviess County is an anomaly compared to other counties and compared to the myth that perpetuated COVID in its earliest days where it is the elderly population that are more likely to get it.
According to health department data, over half of the cases in the county are from individuals under the age of 50.
“Fortunately, it appears that most are recovering uneventfully,” said Losey.
Losey is concerned about the spike in numbers recently.
“I think COVID in Jo Daviess County is rapidly becoming a serious problem,” said Losey. “It is much worse than in shutdown. Some of that was to be expected.”
Losey emphasized that even though there was a relaxing of some of the restrictions, mask wearing and social distancing were never relaxed.
“Wearing masks and social distancing are the only things that will stop the virus at this time,” said Losey.
“It is the same things that we have been saying from the beginning in terms of wearing masks when you can’t socially distance, wash your hands frequently and be smart about what social interactions you do have,” said Midwest Medical Clinic’s Dr. Beth Gullone.
“Obviously we don’t want to hide in our houses for months again. Consider not doing activities in large groups.”
Gullone emphasized that it is still possible to contract the virus in smaller groups.
Death rates have gone down recently, but Losey said that is not a reason to loosen the mask and social distance restrictions.
“Even though death rates have diminished, it is not zero,” said Losey. “There is a risk of death for anyone.”
Losey is also concerned about those in the community with underlying medical conditions.
“The perspective of mask wearing is, it is to help others, not yourself, even if you don’t believe in it,” said Losey.
“You have to respect others. Masks help everyone else, not the person wearing it. If they are walking around not wearing a mask, they are spreading it to others.”
Losey called it a community responsibility.
“We are all in this together, but we depend on each other to protect us,” said Losey. “We have to get around the idea that it is political or a conspiracy theory. It’s real.”
The numbers are also worrying because of the lack of intensive care beds available in the region. According to Losey, ICU beds in Dubuque, Iowa are near capacity and most are just for cases in Dubuque County. Midwest Medical Center doesn’t have the capacity for ICU patients.
“We are much closer to the worst case scenario than we were in March, April or May,” said Losey. “We are approaching a doomsday scenario.”
Losey is concerned about what lies ahead for the county.
“I feel terrible that there’s that amount of virus floating around in our community,” said Losey. “It is getting around much easier than it should.”
His concern also lies in the health system and what could happen if trends continue.
“Nobody is going to like it when the healthcare system breaks,” said Losey. “We don’t want to get to that point, but I am calling a warning. We are worse than we were four months ago. I think people are feeling relaxed, but nobody alive has experienced a virus like this.”
Losey and other local health officials held a conference call with local mayors to rally communities and to get the communities to find ways in which they can work together to help stop the spike in cases.
“We don’t know the end of this story yet,” said Losey.