University of Illinois COVID-19 cases surge past official predictions

University of Illinois officials have blamed an unpredicted surge in Covid-19 cases to some students partying and avoiding quarantining and contact tracing efforts. The university reported 1,754 new cases from Aug. 15 when students started coming back to campus, through Sept. 8, although a team of researchers working directly for the university administration had projected only 500 to 700 cases by Thanksgiving.

Champaign-Urbana emergency orders fall short of researchers’ recommendations

The cities of Champaign and Urbana both issued emergency orders intended to prevent a possible surge in COVID-19 cases as students return to campus for the fall semester.

Illinois researchers Eric Jakobsson and Santiago Nunez-Corrales created a computer model that estimated that students will bring back nine times the viral load – or rate of disease – than of community members. In a letter to both city councils, they recommended the cities, all bars and restaurants return to having only curbside pick-up, delivery or drive through. They said without those measures there could be an additional 800 cases, 80 more hospitalizations and four more deaths.

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.

Returning international students from countries with lower infection rates of COVID-19 than the U.S.

Most of the international students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s 2019-2020 academic year are from countries with lower daily Covid-19 infection rates than the United States, according to a CU-CitizenAccess analysis.

Last spring, 9,824 international students attended the University from more than 100 countries, according to university data.

More than 20,000 university students may return from zip codes with higher positivity rates for COVID-19

Champaign County has had about 2 percent of those tested for the virus receive positive results, which means the person should self-quarantine for 14 days.

But a comparison of state public health test data on August 3 and ZIP code data for students who attended the University in the last academic year shows that 20,000 out of 28,000 students from Illinois may arrive from ZIP codes with positive percentages above 5 percent, according to a review of the data by CU-CitizenAccess.org.

Six years and Tuscola residents still waiting on Cronus fertilizer plant

In 2014, in the midst of a gubernatorial election, the construction of a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant in Tuscola was announced with much fanfare and the promise of state subsidies.

Eight years later, no piece of dirt has been overturned since former Gov. Quinn poked a shovel into an open field in a symbolic groundbreaking.

Now Tuscola officials say the outbreak of coronavirus will add to the long delays.

Champaign County jail bookings show racial disparity over eight years

Black persons were booked at the Champaign County jail at least one and half times more than white persons over an eight-year period, according to a review of jail data by CU-CitizenAccess.org.

The jail system has been criticized for shortcomings in health care and infrastructure over the past decade. The latest plan to consolidate the two facilities, estimated to cost between $42 and $52 million and is still being discussed by the county board.

There were a total of 49,535 jail bookings from January 1, 2012 to March 11, 2020 – specific bookings, not individual persons booked.

COVID-19 testing data shows high recovery rate, weekly increase in testing

By the end of June Champaign County had conducted more than 33,000 COVID-19 tests, according to data from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

A review of the data saw the number of daily tests increasing dramatically while showing that Champaign County has had a relatively low positive rate (2.5%) with 723 cases out of 29508 tests (May to June).

It also showed a high “recovered” rate, but the term “recovered’ can be misleading. In Illinois, the definition of recovered means that an infected person has not died within 42 days of being diagnosed. The rate was 93 percent (May to June).

C-U Health District focusing on prevention efforts, contact tracing in Phase Four

Julie Pryde, administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said the state will continue in Phase Four now until the pandemic ends, meaning masks and six-feet social distancing are still recommended and required in public spaces.

The health district is in the process of hiring more contact tracers, for example. About 30 contact tracers work there now to track the persons with whom an infected person has had potential contact with.

Small Business Administration announces grants for civil unrest damages

Champaign County businesses that suffered damage from looting may eventually be included in funding from the Small Business Administration (SBA), a spokesperson said last week.

John Dwyer of the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency, said in a phone call that over 50 businesses were affected by looting. The SBA announced in an email on June 26 it would be providing grants to Illinois businesses affected by civil unrest between May 26 and June 8.