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THIS WEEK: Medical centers ramp up for growing COVID cases

Community Health Center preparing for continued COVID infections until next Summer

ILLINOIS CITY, Rock Island — Quad City area medical centers and clinics are gearing up for a long, hard winter.

With COVID cases on the rise in Illinois and Iowa, staff at Community Health Center and other medical facilities are preparing for case numbers similar, if not worse, than what was seen earlier in 2020.

"We really anticipate we'll be in this mode and are planning in this mode, until summer of next year," said Tom Bowman, Chief Executive Officer of community Health Center which has clinics in Clinton, Davenport, East Moline, Moline, Muscatine, and Rock Island.

The concerns are part of a troubling trend throughout Illinois and Iowa.

"Regional trends are still moving in the wrong direction," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a daily briefing on the virus.

"From our staff, some of the things they're most concerned about is, you know, people not following social distancing, not wearing masks in public," said Bowman.

"They are here to serve and treat most people who come in contact with COVID and it's frustrating when we see this in the community."

Listen to our entire interview with CHC's Tom Bowman on THE CITIES podcast.

In region after region, mostly the rural areas and suburbs of Chicago and St. Louis, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is rising.

And that means hospitalizations are also rising.

"We're seeing a rise in sickness that is serious enough to land people in the hospital and we know that's very serious if they're getting there for COVID," said Illinois assistant public health director Dr. Amal Tokars.

It's part of a second wave of the coronavirus with infections surpassing what we've seen before.

"We are heading now into a peak that is beyond, potentially, where we were in March and April," explained Gov. Pritzker.

And the promise of a vaccine, a silver bullet before the end of the year, now seems a pipe dream.

"Vaccinations, once they arrive, will take many, many months at the minimum to actually get into the arms of the people of Illinois," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

 And until then, health experts say people must mask up, socially distance from other people, and avoid COVID-19 hot spots.

But Bowman says there's a new sense of frustration by both the public and those on the front lines of treating people.

"(These precautions) are not hard to follow and as I think there's some frustration level on that side of it, we want to treat you but we've got to slow this thing down so if people will follow these directions it will help everybody."" 

If not, rates will rise and Illinois' Governor says action will be taken.

"It is very serious right now folks," Gov. Pritzker warned.

"If we need to close down restaurants and bars or take away their liquor licenses, take away their gaming licenses, we will do that."

You can watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.