Virus outbreaks hit businesses throughout county

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As Illinois continues to reopen parts of the state, many businesses and care facilities are still facing COVID-19 outbreaks in Champaign County.

Twenty-six outbreaks have been recorded across several facilities and businesses in the county as of June 8, according to Julie Pryde, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District administrator.

As of June 10, 703 positive cases and 9 deaths in the county have been reported.

The health district defines an outbreak as two or more cases within the same facility. 

“When we get one case associated with a possible workplace exposure, we add the facility to our ‘On Our Radar’ list,” Pryde said in an email. “When there is one case in a facility, CUPHD encourages the business to send all of their employees for testing.”

Pryde said the health department will not release the names of facilities unless there is a public health need. For example, measles is so infectious that someone could walk through a space where measles was two hours prior and still catch the infection. 

However, people who test positive for COVID-19 are typically isolated immediately and their contacts are interviewed as well. Also, most of the COVID-19 outbreaks are only from two to three people within a facility and so the worksite is shut down very quickly, Pryde said. 

The health department will confirm a site if asked a specific name, though.

As of June 8, the types of facilities experiencing outbreaks are:

  • Eight restaurants
  • Eight manufacturing or food processing facilities 
  • One hotel
  • Three long-term care facilities
  • Two retails stores
  • One construction/sanitation company
  • Three congregate housing facilities.

The health district has recorded 30 total outbreaks, including those at the Rantoul Foods meat processing plant, an outdoor equipment manufacturing plant and two nursing homes, University Rehabilitation Center and Meadowbrook Health Center.

Four outbreaks have since ended, Pryde said.

Pryde said earlier that an outbreak is considered over when there are 28 days of no new cases reported since the last date of onset of the last case.

When an outbreak occurs, Pryde said all who are testing positive are isolated and anyone they had contact with is interviewed, placed into quarantine and also offered testing. 

Those who tested positive are often isolated at home, but if their homes are not suited for isolation, they would be placed in a hotel or a separate location. At a long-term care facility, residents are placed in a separate room or wing of the facility. In jails, sick inmates are placed in their own cell or in a cell with another inmate who has COVID-19. 

If the outbreak is at a long-term care or congregate housing facility, all staff and residents are required to get tested as well, Pryde said. These facilities are also eligible to receive personal protective equipment from the health district to help control the outbreak. 

“Group homes have their own protocol, based upon space, but people should be in their own room when sick, or placed in with other sick individuals,” Pryde said. 

In addition, an “Outbreak Support Team” made up of a healthcare provider and environmental health specialist is available for site visits to help with infection control practices. Upon an outbreak at long-term care or congregate housing facilities, this team will always conduct a site visit, she said.

Throughout the pandemic, the number of cases will continue to ebb and flow, Pryde said. 

“We are seeing fewer cases at this time, which we are very thankful for,” she said. “If there is an increase in cases from the reopening or from protests, those will start showing up this week or next. We are hopeful that the widespread masking will help keep infections down.”

Wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and cleaning commonly touched surfaces are all practices Pryde said everyone still needs to take part in. She said common misconceptions Champaign County residents have about the pandemic is that it is not a big deal or that it is over. 

“The pandemic is not over,” Pryde said. “We will need to maintain vigilance.”

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