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Why Are Locations Of 22 COVID-19 Outbreaks Not Disclosed In Champaign County?

The Champaign City Building figures prominently in this view of downtown Champaign, as seen from University Avenue.

CHAMPAIGN – When pressed by reporters during a news briefing earlier this month, Governor J.B. Pritzker said he thinks local public health departments should inform the public when outbreaks occur at area businesses. 

In Champaign County, which is dealing with 22 outbreaks of COVID-19 as of Thursday, local officials aren’t providing information about where those outbreaks are occurring.

At a press briefing, when asked why her agency doesn’t disclose where local outbreaks are occurring, Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde said the main issue is the concern that local businesses will be negatively impacted by something that is no longer a public health concern.

“It could hurt businesses unnecessarily,” she says. 

Pryde says her agency immediately steps in once there’s a confirmed COVID-19 case, and those who’ve been exposed are contacted and instructed to quarantine. 

More than 700 people in Champaign County are currently in quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19, and almost 250 people with confirmed COVID-19 cases are recovering in isolation, Pryde says.

An outbreak consists of two or more confirmed cases at a given location. 

“An outbreak can be anywhere from two to hundreds,” Pryde says.

She says the reason why nursing home outbreaks become public knowledge is because long-term care facilities are required to notify family members of residents about outbreaks — and that information gets shared with the media.

Pryde says they do report locations for outbreaks of airborne diseases like measles that can linger in the air for hours, as opposed to COVID-19, which she says spreads through close contact — less than six feet — over a period of at least 10 minutes.

But Pryde says she will look into making information about outbreaks at local businesses public.

Champaign County reported 21 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday for a total of 497. Out of that total, seven have died, five are hospitalized and more than half are considered to be recovered.

More than 10,000 COVID-19 tests have been performed so far in the county.

Pryde made her 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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Severe storms possible Thursday evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.