ROCKFORD — Eight more people have tested positive for COVID-19, Winnebago County Public Health Department Administrator Sandra Martell said Monday.


As of Monday, 113 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, 843 people had tested negative and 544 tests are still pending. The number of deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, remains at seven.


Martell was joined Monday at a health department news briefing by Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Mayor Tom McNamara.


Martell addressed the debate about whether the virus is still spreading rapidly or whether the rising number of cases is the result of wider testing.


"There hasn’t been a sudden significant pop," she said of a spike in cases.


But she added: "We do know that our positivity rate, meaning the percent who are testing positive, is increasing as time is going on. So we do know that more and more people who are showing symptoms are being tested and have a greater chance of being positive.


"So that’s why it’s really essential to stay at home, isolate if you are ill, frequent hand-washing, masking when you are out in public because again with the transmission period you can be asymptomatic and still transmit 48 hours before" showing symptoms.


In addition to stressing the availability of community services like food pantries and counseling services to help people in need, McNamara said there is light at the end of tunnel.


"We know that there will be an end to this crisis," he said. "To get there, though, we must continue to be vigilant. And we must continue to work together. So I am asking you to continue to stay home, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, wash the surfaces that you use frequently, stay healthy and most of all check in on your neighbors."


Haney said cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment such as masks can be dropped off at the former Circuit City, 5460 E. State St.


Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday announced 1,173 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois and 74 additional deaths.


Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 22,025 cases, including 794 deaths, in 87 of Illinois’ 102 counties.


Chris Green: cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen