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State Database Reveals Details Of Covid-19 Outbreaks In Champaign County

Rantoul Foods in Rantoul, IL on Sunday, May 17, 2020. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

URBANA — 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. 

The database was obtained by the Documenting COVID-19 project at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The Midwest Center, which shares stories with CU-CitizenAccess.org, published it Wednesday.

The location and names of businesses and agencies associated with Covid-19 outbreaks has not been previously been released, state public health officials said, because of state and federal laws meant to protect the identities of those infected. 

Champaign County public health officials also have not identified locations or businesses unless they have been asked to confirm reports of an outbreak.

“CUPHD only report outbreaks to IDPH. In fact many of the outbreaks would not even be outbreaks in normal times,” said Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, in an email response Thursday morning. “IDPH has a different way of designating outbreaks with COVID.”

The county has had a total of 5,183 cases this year and 25 deaths as of Wednesday, according to state data. More than 2,200 of those cases have been reported by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but no outbreaks for the campus appears to be listed in the database. 

A close review of the database also shows some inconsistencies in addresses and names of agencies and businesses, but it gives a disturbing picture of the breadth and depth of Covid-19 outbreaks. 

Although the cases cited were of people working or gathering at these locations, those people may not have become infected at these locations, said  Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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). 

Names and descriptions of the cases do include typos and were taken on a point-in-time basis- meaning a snapshot of confirmed cases on July 24, August 17, September 1 and September 30 tracked by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

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.



The Documenting COVID-19 project at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation is a collaborative FOIA journalism effort to compile newsworthy records and data related to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, email info@documentingcovid19.io

This story was updated October 8, 2020, to include response from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

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