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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

MCHD Points To Bars, Maskless Parties As Key Drivers In COVID Spike

COVID testing on the Quad
Emily Bollinger
/
WGLT
Illinois State University said Friday that 70 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Public health officials on Saturday pointed the finger at crowded bars and large in-person gatherings as key factors in McLean County’s surge in cases – especially among college-aged young people.

McLean County reported 53 new cases on Saturday – a new single-day record. The county has seen more than 200 cases in just the past week. In the past four days, as college students began their fall semester, three out of four new cases have been people in their teens and 20s.

The county’s testing positivity rate shot up to 4.4% on Saturday (7-day average). That's doubled in about a week, and it’s now higher than the statewide average (4.3%).

Coronavirus - Testing Positivity Rate
Infogram
“We are at a very critical point in our response to the COVID pandemic,” McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said in a statement on Saturday. “To help our county move forward, it is going to take a community effort. We all need to continue working together and doing what we can to protect our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.”

Still, the number of hospitalizations remains low (three people). There are 246 people who have tested positive and are isolating at home. Those 249 active cases also is a new record high.

“In McLean County, we are currently seeing increased transmission related to crowded bars and large in-person gatherings where social distancing is not maintained, and face coverings are not worn,” McKnight said.

The Town of Normal and City of Bloomington recently sent a warning letter to bars and restaurants, reminding them that their liquor licenses could be at risk if they don’t enforce the state’s mask and limited-capacity rules.

And the largest student-apartment landlord in Normal, Young America Realty, said Friday it would close its pools and other common areas and disperse crowds at The Lodge on Willow, one of the largest off-campus complexes.

Illinois State University said Friday that 70 students have tested positive for COVID-19. Illinois Wesleyan University had 29 positive student cases as of Thursday.

“If actions are not taken by our community now to control the spread, we are in danger of being in the warning level for multiple indicators and facing increased mitigation efforts in the coming weeks that could negatively impact our economy and day-to-day lives,” McKnight said.

Long-term care facility

Meanwhile, the Luther Oaks long-term care facility in Bloomington is facing its second outbreak.

Six residents and three employees have tested positive. The residents are part of Luther Oaks’ memory care unit. There have been no positive cases among its assisted living and health care center population. COVID-19 testing for all Luther Oaks employees was conducted Thursday.

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