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News Around Illinois – Aug. 11, 2020

The latest news around the state, for Aug. 11, 2020.

Officials: Beach Crowds Make It Hard To Social Distance

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — Social distancing is becoming a problem at Illinois beaches as large crowds flock there during the pandemic, officials said. Visitation guidelines have been changed at some Lake County beaches to accommodate visitors, some of whom are from Chicago, where beaches remain closed. Bob Feffer, who has been a site manager at Illinois Beach State Park for 32 years, said he has not seen crowds like the ones during the weekends in July. The state park had about 15,000 visitors on July 25 and 26, the Lake County News-Sun reported. “There were just too many people for social distancing to take place,” Feffer said. “Most of the people came from Chicago. Their beaches aren’t open, so they came here.” The beach is no longer open on the weekends but only during the weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. David Motley, Waukegan’s director of marketing and public relations, said larger crowds were expected because people have been staying mostly indoors since March. – Associated Press

Lawsuit: Illinois Expanded Mail Voting Is Partisan ‘Scheme’

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago-area Republicans filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging Illinois’ expanded vote-by-mail program is a “partisan scheme” to help Democrats get votes and could open the door to election fraud. The lawsuit is the latest GOP effort to curb mail-in voting, which President Donald Trump has called flawed and the greatest threat to his reelection. Though several states rely exclusively on mail-in ballots and fraud related to it is rare, it’s a complicated endeavor that more states are taking on during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue are changes to Illinois’ vote-by-mail program that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in June to limit Election Day crowds at the polls. Among other things, it sends vote-by-mail applications to millions of Illinois residents who voted in elections since 2018, makes Nov. 3 a government and school holiday and allows local election authorities to establish secure drop-boxes for collecting ballots. The lawsuit argues the law allows for so-called “vote harvesting,” or the practice of third parties rounding up absentee ballots. The alleged scheme would let those with Election Day off, including Democratic-leaning union employees such as teachers, to collect ballots and “dilute the votes of the Republican Party.” – Sophia Tareen, Associated Press

Effort To Help Area Nonprofits Filled A Need

When the pandemic hit this spring, there were immediate concerns over the basic needs of people and how to make sure those were being met. A joint effort between the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and United Way of Central Illinois came through in a big way. The COVID-19 Response Fund, launched in March, wound up awarding nearly $1 million to 85 organizations as of July. “It was a remarkable thing in my mind, especially in the speed in which money came in and went out,” said John Stremsterfer, the Community Foundation President and CEO. “It wasn’t the measured approach we often take with grant proposals, but I think it was the right approach.” Groups that address food insecurity, health care, housing and more benefitted. Nonprofits like the Central Illinois Foodbank, Contact Ministries and others in Sangamon and surrounding counties received help. “There was particular focus on communities of color that were disproportionately affected,” Stremsterfer said. He said the awarding of grants is complete for now, although a portion of money was retained in the event the fund needs to be tapped again due to a resurgence of COVID-19. – Sean Crawford, WUIS

ISU Random Coronavirus Testing To Cost Up To $3.3 Million

The Illinois State University administration has asked the board of trustees to approve spending up to $3.3 million for coronavirus surveillance testing of students on campus through the end of the year. Trustees will consider the proposal at a special meeting on Wednesday. The cost per test would be $110. The university said it anticipates conducting about 1,500 tests each week through Pekin-based Reditus Labs that said it provides capacity to test up to 500 per day. Testing will be completed at multiple on-campus locations, if approved by the board. Health experts have said surveillance testing is useful to detect transmission hot spots, or better define disease trends. Provost Aondover Tarhule told WGLT last week the goal is to test 3% of the student population on a regular basis. That would be about 600 students from a regular-year student census of about 20,000 people. – Charlie Schlenker, WGLT

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