By SAMANTHA PIDDE

County schools, businesses and local governments are makings changes and canceling meetings and events in an effort to practice social distancing to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), as of Sunday, March 15, there were 93 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Illinois.

No COVID-19 cases have been reported in Carroll County as of Tuesday, March 17. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the IDPH on Sunday, March 15, confirmed two cases in the Northern Illinois Rockford Region — one in Whiteside County and one in Winnebago County.

Whiteside County reported a resident in his or her 40s tested positive and Winnebago County reported a resident in his or her 60s tested positive for COVID-19. Neither individual had known exposure through travel or contact with a confirmed coronavirus case. The disease investigations are ongoing.

Both cases were tested based on IDPH's COVID-19 criteria. The individuals are both isolated at home and recovering. Public health officials are identifying individuals who were in contact with these cases to determine risk of exposure for monitoring.

Members of the public are urged by these departments to remain calm and practice social distancing and good hygiene: According to the CDC, the IDPH and the Whiteside County Health Department, this includes:

Keeping at least six feet away from others; consider staying home and keep non-essential trips to a minimum; washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue and throwing the tissue away; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces.

"Unless it is an emergency, we advise individuals who think they may have COVID-19, or have had close contact with someone diagnosed or under evaluation for possible exposure, to stay home and call their healthcare provider for further direction," the Whiteside County Health Department said in a press release. Close contact was defined as having been within six feet of that person for an extended period of time or being exposed to their cough or sneeze.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath. Anyone who believes they may have these symptoms is asked not to go to the emergency room, walk-in clinic or their doctor's office. Instead, people should call ahead and follow their healthcare provider's instructions.

Health officials offered these suggestions for what the public can do:

•STAY CALM: You are not alone in this; your community is here to support you. Talk to your friends and family and let them know if you are having concerns.

•STAY APART: Keep at least 6 feet away from others including while shopping. Avoid the lines by taking advantage of pick-up and delivery services for groceries and other goods.

•STAY PUT: Keep non-essential trips to a minimum and reconsider your travel plans. Consider staying home. Be mindful of those who are at greater risk for contracting this virus, including older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

Call your healthcare provider:

If you experience fever, cough, and shortness of breath (flu like symptoms), stay home and call your healthcare provider before going to a healthcare facility. Inform them of your symptoms.

The CDC warns anyone developing the following "emergency warning signs" to get medical attention immediately. The warning signs include:

•Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

•Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.

•New confusion or inability to arouse.

•Bluish lips or face.

On Friday, March 13, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker decreed that all Illinois schools will close from March 17 to March 30, with day care centers remaining open for the present time. According to Pritzker, these center will follow "strict health and safety guidance."

"All of these choices have cascading effects for citizens and vulnerable populations when it comes to food access, safety, childcare, and social services," Pritzker said. "We've seen what happens in places that didn't move with urgency. I ask all of you not to hesitate to do the right thing for your family, your friends, and your community. One small step at a time, we will get through this together."

Following the governor's statement, local schools quickly released plans last week for the mandated school closure.

The West Carroll and Chadwick-Milledgeville school districts held half-day sessions Monday, March 16, to instruct students methods for education and instruction during this two-week closure. The Eastland school district closed Monday, with e-learning day plans finalized on Monday and Tuesday.

In an email sent out to parents, West Carroll Supt. Julie Katzenberger said the district would be using this time for continued learning experiences in a variety of ways.

WCPS students are not taking their computers or iPads home, instead having homework sent home Monday by their teacher. WCMS and WCHS students will utilize computers for e-learning days and will be expected to use devices to complete homework assigned by teachers daily.

Chadwick-Milledgeville and Eastland are following similar practices, utilizing digital learning platforms, Class Dojo and e-mail to communicate

While school is closed, Illinois public schools will still be required to provide school lunches. In West Carroll, breakfast will be available to students for pick-up at the WCPS and at the district office from 8-9 a.m. daily free of charge for all Pre-K through grade 12 students. Lunch will be available at both locations from noon to 1 p.m. daily free of charge for all Pre-K through grade 12 students.

Chadwick-Milledgeville directs any parents needing a school lunch for their students during this closure to call the Milledegville office by 9:30 a.m. each day (March 16-20 and March 30. Spring break was already scheduled for March 23-27). Sack lunches (sandwich, vegetable, fruit and snack) will be charged to the student's lunch account and delivered to homes by district employees.

In Eastland, students can pick up sack lunches daily free of charge, from 11 a.m. to noon at the elementary school in Shannon using the drive-up lane in the front of the school and at the junior-senior high school in Lanark outside the main entrance. The district asks students pick up their lunches in the town in which they live. Each sack lunch will also include breakfast for the following morning. There will be no sack lunches the week of Spring Break (March 23-29). Parents unable to pick up the meal can e-mail Food Service Director Melissa McLain at mmclain@eastland308.com or call her at 815-493-6341 ext. 260 to arrange for delivery.

Numerous meetings throughout Mount Carroll, Savanna and the county have been postponed, including the West Carroll School Board whose meeting was changed to March 31 from March 18.

The Carroll County Board canceled its regular meeting, set for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, and the Carroll County Veterans Assistance Commission has canceled its quarterly meeting.

Judge Val Gunnarsson said Monday that in accordance with the temporary order regulating courtroom use during the pandemic, most cases scheduled in the 15th Judicial Circuit will not be heard. Litigants are advised to contact their attorneys before attempting to appear. Others may contact the circuit clerk during regular business hours at 815-244-0230 for further instructions.

This past weekend, Gov. Pritzker also announced that all Illinois restaurants and bars will be closed to dine-in customers until at least the end of March. Restaurants may still provide drive-thru, carry-out and delivery services. Many local restaurants will still be offering food through these methods.

The City of Mount Carroll announced Monday that City Hall will be closed to walk-in business until March 31. All essential city services will be maintained and all water bill payments can be left in the City Hall drop box next to the front door or mailed to City Hall, 302 N. Main St.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Monday, March 16, that all offices under his purview, including driver services facilities, will be closed through March 31. This includes the facility in Chadwick.

A spokesperson said the hope is for services to resume April 1. Other offices closed include that of the Secretary of State Police and Illinois Securities Department.

For anyone whose driver's license, for instance, expires during that time period, White's office said in a news release not to worry — the secretary of state is asking for the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules to extend those expiration dates by 30 days.

"After careful consideration, it is clear that this decision to close offices and driver services facilities is the right one to make for the health and safety of Illinoisans," White said in a statement. "This important action will help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

Illinoisans can visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com to get a duplicate driver's license and renew their vehicle registration.