State database reveals details of Covid-19 outbreaks in Champaign County

Previously confidential statewide data tracking coronavirus cases across Illinois shows that there have been at least 50 different outbreaks in Champaign County traced to restaurants, stores, churches, nursing homes, hospitals and in a county office.

The internal database kept by the Illinois Department of Public Health has tracked case counts for nearly 2,600 separate outbreaks across Illinois.

In Champaign County, the number of cases in individual outbreaks ranges from two at the Carle Clinic in Mahomet to 97 at Rantoul Foods in Rantoul, which CU-CitizenAccess has previously reported.

The database also listed cases at Cunningham Children’s Home (8) , Plastipak (14) and the Champaign County Jail in Urbana (4).

The data also includes the ‘unofficial prom party’ in Champaign County where there were 17 confirmed Covid-19 cases. That prom party has been reported as being in Mahomet.

Champaign County may get swept up into new restrictions; State cites rising rates of Covid-19 in nearby counties

State health officials may re-impose tighter Covid-19 restrictions on Champaign County because other counties in the region are reporting higher rates of the virus.

On Wednesday, health officials said the number of saliva tests conducted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has skewed the 7-day positivity rate in a 21 county region. The state uses the positivity rate to impose restrictions or lift mitigation efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

The number of University tests makes up 20% of all tests given in the state and officials said when its numbers are factored in, the region’s positivity rate is at 2%. Without including the university’s numbers, the positivity rate is 7.2% for other 20 counties in central Illinois area known as Region 6.

An 8% rate would trigger additional state restrictions. Seven counties in Region 6 already are above the 8% positivity rate.

With closure of Rantoul Press and cutbacks at Commercial News, local newspapers continue to shrink

The News-Gazette’s owners are shutting down the Rantoul Press – while the Commercial News, based in Danville, has announced reduced days of publication.

The Rantoul Press has been in operation since the early 1900s and is published weekly on Wednesday. It was formerly owned by Glenn Hansen, who died in 2008. The newspaper was sold to the News-Gazette in 2004.

“It’s sad because it’s been our little newspaper,” said Kaye Heath, secretary and treasurer of the Rantoul Historical Society and Museum.

Heath, 75, is a lifelong resident of Rantoul and said that in addition to retaining a copy of the full paper, the historical society often clips articles from the newspaper, such as fires and other happenings, for their files.

“We’re going to miss it,” she said.

University expands testing requirements as researchers predict hundreds more cases

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign quietly announced on Tuesday an expansion of its Covid-19 testing by requiring students to be tested routinely even if they live in the community but do not plan to come to campus.

The decision comes during a week when two university epidemiologists recommended in a letter to city officials in Champaign and Urbana that they go back from current Phase 4 of the Illinois reopening plan to Phase 3 to limit the spread of the virus during the surge of returning students.

Rantoul Foods resumes hiring; receives donation of face shields

Rantoul Foods, which has had at least 87 workers stricken with Covid-19 at its meat processing plant, started hiring again.

But the meat processing company said new workers “must take a Covid-19 test and receive negative results prior to starting work,” in an email Monday to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Mass testing at meat plant finds 27 more coronavirus cases

Rantoul Foods, one of Central Illinois’ largest meat processing plants, will partially shut down Monday to undergo additional sanitization following a mass testing event at the plant Friday and Saturday that found 27 more cases of Covid-19 among employees, according to a company release.

Though yet to be confirmed by health officials, this pushes the total number of employees who have become sick to 82.