University makes cuts to student services at off-campus community living office

At a time when students are struggling with leases, lockdowns, and landlords, the University’s Off-Campus Community Living Office has cut services and made major changes in its office.

Among the cuts have been the elimination of the online service known as the “Housing Explorer,” which allowed students with information on rental properties in the Champaign-Urbana and to complain about landlords who provided poor housing.

Health data shows private homes, restaurants and bars, and hospitals and clinics are top sources of new infections

Outside of private homes, bars and restaurants have been the largest source of COVID-19 exposures among cases in Champaign County, according to data from the health district.

In November and thus far in December, hospitals or clinics were the top source of COVID-19 exposure. The health district’s graphic shows 26% of reported COVID-19 cases – or 23 cases – within Champaign County were tied to a hospital or clinic in December. There were 112 cases tied to a hospital or clinic in November.

Religious communities connect online during pandemic

As COVID-19 cases surge, Champaign County along with the entire State of Illinois tightened restrictions last week on gatherings, including those of religious organizations. Known in public health terminology as a  Tier 3 Mitigation placed on Friday, part of the restrictions states, “the safest practices for religious organizations at this time are to provide services online, in a drive-in format, or outdoors (and consistent with social distancing requirements and guidance regarding wearing face coverings), and to limit indoor services to 10 people.”

But for Pastor Tim Bossenbroek of Hessel Park Church, the new restrictions have no impact. He said the church has not had any public indoor gatherings, such as small groups or Bible study. Instead, they offer outdoor, socially-distant gatherings or online streaming. “When we have moved inside because of rain, then we’ve just had the worship team in the sanctuary of about eight to 10 people at most.

University of Illinois sees spike in faculty, staff, and grad student COVID-19 cases as county battles ‘uncontrolled spread’

Cases and deaths have been rising in Champaign County and the other 20 counties that make up what the state public health officials designate as Region 6, which covers East central Illinois.

The county is also on a state alert because of the rate of infection, 471 cases per 100,000, which nine times the target rate of 50 cases per 100,000.

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.