ROCKFORD — The Winnebago County Health Department this week will begin coordinating the testing of all nursing home employees in the county.


Testing is part of a statewide strategy to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in long-term care facilities, Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said.


Nursing home residents are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19, the potentially deadline respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.


"There are two plans going on right now," Martell said Monday at a news conference. "One is that they want to look at places with no confirmed cases and do a baseline surveillance to see what is the circulation. And those of us who have cases, testing all of the staff."


Martell said it is unclear how all employees will be tested, but the plan is to complete the testing as quickly as possible. She expects the staffs at nursing homes where public health officials have concerns to be tested this week.


But she said staff members are being monitored already.


"Every single one of those staff members is checked," Martell said. "They are doing a symptom check, meaning they have to report symptoms and they are having a temperature check twice a shift in those facilities so that anyone who begins to exhibit any sign or symptom is quickly removed from the workplace."


It was announced on Friday that a contract employee had tested positive for the disease at the Winnebago County-owned River Bluff Nursing Home at 4401 N. Main St.


Nursing homes are vulnerable during the pandemic because residents tend to live in close quarters and the majority of them are over age 70. Many are dealing with underlying health problems that can make symptoms more severe.


Martell on Monday announced that 15 more people had tested positive for COVID-19 countywide, bringing the total to 209. The number of dead from COVID-19 complications increased by two to a total of 11 dead in Winnebago County.


In Boone County, five residents at Symphony Northwoods, a Belvidere nursing home, have tested positive for the novel coronaivirus and two have died from COVID-19.


Six employees at the nursing home have tested positive for the virus, too, according to the Boone County Health Department.


In all, 34 individuals in Boone County have tested positive for COVID-19 and six have died from the disease, the health department said on Monday.


In Ogle County, 61individuals have tested positive for coronavirus and one resident has died from the disease.


Staff writer Isaac Guerrero contributed to this report.


Jeff Kolkey: jkolkey@rrstar.com; @jeffkolkey