ROCKFORD — Want to honor mom on Mother’s Day? Do so with phone call. Better yet, a video chat. Or send a handwritten card or flowers.


But do not do hold a large family gathering. That plea came Monday from Mayor Tom McNamara at the Winnebago County Health Department, where he was joined by other city and county officials to give an update on all-things COVID-19.


“This weekend is Mother’s Day weekend and I would love nothing more than to honor so many amazing mothers who are in my life,” the mayor said, speaking of his wife, mother and sisters.


“But we can’t get together this weekend. We know this. We know that by getting together we are putting all of us at risk. Please. For the sake of everyone — for the sake of your mother — do not get together this weekend. Remember, the virus doesn’t care if you are related. It doesn’t care if you are best friends. It doesn’t care if it is your mother or sister, you can still transmit the virus.”


Winnebago County was identified last week by Gov. JB Pritzker as a coronavirus “hot spot.” As testing for the virus becomes more widely available, more positive cases are coming to light.


“Our case count has jumped 97% since just last week and jumped 215% in just the past two weeks,” McNamara said. “These are friends, family members and neighbors, all of whom are facing this disease head on.”


County Health Administrator Sandra Martell said the number of COVID-19 deaths remains at 22, about two-thirds of whom were residents of congregate living facilities.


She said 54 more cases have been identified. The individuals range in age from under 10 to 60. The number of positive cases is now 616.


Teams of volunteers under the direction of health department employees canvased Rockford neighborhoods in the ZIP codes 61102, 61104, 61108, 61109 and 61116. These are some of the county’s lowest-income ZIP codes, and Martell said residents there are among the county’s most vulnerable.


“They have a lower employment rate, lower educational attainment, housing issues, a lack of access to groceries and healthy foods,” Martell said.


The residents, she said, also have higher rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.


“I also want to remind everyone that these community members are also members of our essential workforce,” she said.


“... These are populations who need a great deal of support and attention from all of us.”


As states around the country, including Illinois, begin to modify their stay-at-home orders, County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Rockford Area Economic Development Council President Nathan Bryant spoke of recovery and restoration.


Haney said he is aware that municipalities around the country are opening up for business and recreational activities. He also said not every community is alike, especially Winnebago County, a populated county of 285,000 residents, a significant percentage of whom work in Cook County and live in Winnebago County or vice versa. Most of the state’s COVID-19 cases hail from Cook County. Chicago alone has experienced 1,000 COVID-19 deaths.


“A city-by-city or county-by-county approach (to opening up) would be a political solution, not a strategic public health or economic solution,” Haney said.


Bryant spoke of a regional effort to pull funds and buy in bulk personal protective equipment to help small businesses in and outside of Winnebago County once they reopen.


Statewide there are now 63,840 positive cases. The state now has lost 2,664 people to COVID-19.


Tracking the curve
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Chris Green: cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen