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

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A delivery van with saliva samples as Covid-19 testing takes place on the University of Illinois Quad in Urbana, IL on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.

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.

“Because of this high volume, the positivity rate for Region 6 could be overshadowed by what is happening at UIUC,” state public health officials said.

The state calculation for the positivity rate is the number of positive tests for Covid-19 divided by the number of tests overall. Health officials are monitoring 11 regions

State officials are now reporting numbers for Region 6 with and without Champaign County data, but said “Champaign County will still be required to implement mitigation efforts if regional metrics are tripped in Region 6.” 

Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department Administrator Julie Pryde said that even without the University data, Champaign County is doing fine.  

“We do not feel like Champaign County should have to move into mitigation as we have been doing targeted mitigation based upon our own data, since the beginning (ie: Cities of Champaign & Urbana emergency Orders….they have shut bars, moved to outdoor only seating, etc.),” Pryde wrote in an email response to questions regarding Wednesday’s announcement. 

If Region 6 is placed under additional restrictions, no indoor dining would be allowed and no large gatherings above 10 persons would be permitted. 

Pryde said local health officials have requested to also be removed from additional state imposed-mitigation efforts – with no success. 

“We have tried to explain to people that these counties and towns that do not follow guidance…and that do not support their local health departments….will pull down entire regions,” Pryde said. “We are now seeing that.”

All regions are in Phase 4 of a five-phase plan to reopen the state following a statewide lockdown, which was Phase 1. Phase 4 means that there is a decline in new Covid-19 cases, that hospitals have the capacity to handle a surge and restaurants can open with limited capacity. 

The state announced 2,273 new cases Wednesday and 35 deaths. Champaign County’s number of cases rose by 29 and it reported the 21st death in the county – a woman in her 80s with underlying conditions.  

To date, there have been a total of 293,274 cases, including 8,672 deaths statewide, officials said. 

Raleigh Butler contributed to this story.

County7-day positivity rate
De Witt9.3
Champaign 1.2

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