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As Illinois Enters ‘Phase Three,’ C-U Officials Expect More Outbreaks Will Occur

Downtown Urbana Historic District
Main Street in Downtown Urbana

CHAMPAIGN – As certain businesses reopen and people begin socializing in small groups during Phase Three of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, local public health officials say they’re expecting to see additional COVID-19 outbreaks occur.

“We are definitely going to see more cases,” says C-U Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde. “That is the nature of the beast.”

Champaign County is currently dealing with 26 outbreaks — defined as two or more cases in a given location. Pryde says those locations include eight restaurants, eight manufacturing facilities, four nursing homes, two other congregate living facilities, a hotel and two outdoor construction sites.

Of the county’s 596 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, 147 are currently active — involving people in isolation or quarantine. Four people are hospitalized, seven have died and 442 have recovered.

Pryde urges residents to continue to take precautions as they go out.

“Just because more things are opening up does not mean the virus is gone,” Pryde says.

While people are allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less, Pryde says the usual advice remains the same: wear cloth masks, remain six feet from anyone not in your household and wash your hands frequently.

Anyone who has a risk factor for COVID-19 — or lives with those who do — should be particularly cautious and understand that the risks are serious, she says.

Restaurants and bars in Champaign-Urbana will require reservations, including a name and phone number.

Pryde says this is so that in the event of an outbreak, C-U Public Health’s team of contact tracers will be able to more quickly respond.

If someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is known to have been at a restaurant while contagious, contact tracers can reach out to inform employees and restaurant patrons who may have been exposed.

“Hopefully we can get right on top of them, get everyone contacted and put in isolation or quarantine within 24 hours,” Pryde says, which will help prevent further spread.

Champaign-Urbana city officials say they worked together to create a plan for the soft reopening or local businesses, following state guidelines. 

Some restaurants and bars will expand outdoor dining areas into parking lots and sidewalks on both public and private property, says Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen.

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin says she’s received a lot of questions about live music, but for now, it will not be allowed.

“All our efforts and energy have been spent on just getting the businesses reopened safely,” Marlin says. “But we do intend to consider music in the coming days. We know how important it is for the community and the businesses and the creative communities.”

Pryde says the other reason music is a concern is that, if it’s too loud, people have to raise their voice and yell to speak to each other, which can potentially cause more virus to be shed by someone who may be unknowingly infected.

It can also encourage crowds to gather, which can increase the chances of an outbreak.

Marlin says the police departments do not have the capacity to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing requirements for all residents and businesses, so the cities will be “depending on the community” to take collective action to keep each other safe.

If a business is not in compliance, Pryde encourages people to talk to management and express your concerns.

“The idea is not to punish people or get them in trouble,” she says. “The idea is to make sure everyone is being safe.”

Pryde, Marlin and Feinen made their comments at an online news briefing in response to questions from Illinois Newsroom and other media outlets. If you have a question you would like to ask local officials regarding COVID-19, submit it here.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

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Christine Herman

Christine Herman is a Ph.D. chemist turned audio journalist who covers health for the Illinois Newsroom. Her reporting for Illinois Public Media/WILL has received awards from the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the Public Media Journalists Association and has reached both regional and national audiences through WILL's health reporting partnership with Side Effects Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Christine started at WILL in 2015.

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