Whiteside County Health Department says number of COVID-19 cases are ‘higher than reported due to limited testing’

Local News

Whiteside County Health Department is reminding residents that the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported “does not accurately represent the total number of cases in Whiteside County due to limited testing.”

In fact, the health department says the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the county is “likely higher than reported laboratory-confirmed cases,” adding how testing has been limited to protect health care workers and the general public, as well as to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Whiteside County Health Department says, up until recently, the Illinois Department of Public Health testing recommendations prioritized the following: hospitalized patients with acute illness, health care workers, first responders and residents and employees of group living facilities such as nursing home and jails — where COVID-19 can easily spread and cause negative outcomes.

According to the health department, these recommendations are intended to “help providers properly diagnose and treat seriously ill individuals” as well as determine the need for other tests unrelated to COVID-19.

Whiteside County Health Department says current testing guidelines also help quickly identify the presence of COVID-19 in residential settings “where direct action can be taken to halt the spread, protect critical infrastructure and protect the public against accidental exposure from essential workers.”

Preliminary data provided by the health department suggests that, while COVID-19 can cause serious illness and death — particularly in older individuals and those with other health conditions — 80% of cases may be mild.

Whiteside County Health Department says current testing guidelines “exclude individuals with only mild illness that can be safely managed at home” and, “with no approved treatment for individuals with mild illness, the CDC supports forgoing testing if a positive result will not change clinical management” — adding that these recommendations protect health care workers from “unnecessary exposure” and prevent individuals without COVID-19 from “being exposed during testing,” thus, leading to underreporting of COVID-19 among the general public.

“This is especially true of individuals who lack symptoms or experience only mild symptoms,” said the health department in a press release Thursday. “Individuals with mild illness should always consult their health care provider about their options.”

The Whiteside County Health Department reiterates how the global response to this pandemic has “strained supply chains” and created “shortages of crucial personal protective equipment.” They say limited testing is “intended to preserve PPE to protect health care workers providing care to patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and those undergoing surgeries and other medically-necessary treatments.”

As supply chains and inventories of PPE are restored, the health department says they will “continue to work with our partners to evaluate the situation” and, as recommendations and testing expand, “we hope to get a better picture of actual cases within our country.”

Until then, the Whiteside County Health Department reminds residents that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the county is “higher than reported due to limited testing” and asks residents to “continue social distancing until additional information is available.”

More information about the Whiteside County Health Department is available here and here.

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