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

McLean County Placed On State's Warning List; 17th Death Reported

Emily Bollinger
About one in five Illinois State University students tested for COVID-19 in the past week came back positive.

UPDATED 2:05 p.m. | The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday placed McLean County into a warning level after an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases and testing positivity rate.

McLean is one of 29 counties statewide, out of 102, at the warning level. The warning level does not automatically trigger state mitigations; that happens only at a regional level. But the warning level is "intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions."

IDPH's move was not unexpected. McLean County's testing positive rate has increased in 16 of the last 17 days, rising to 10.9%. That steady climb began when college students returned to Bloomington-Normal.

"The McLean County Health Department has been monitoring these key indicators and making recommendations to local leaders about additional measures that can be taken and precautions that can be used to mitigate the further spread of the virus," MCHD Administrator Jessica McKnight said Friday.

Coronavirus - Testing Positivity Rate
17th death in McLean County

Meanwhile, MCHD on Friday reported the county’s 17th COVID-19 related death.

The man in his 90s had underlying health conditions, said the agency. His death is the first since mid-August.

llinois State University announced 105 new coronavirus cases on Friday. ISU says 1,283 students have tested positive since returning to campus. The university’s testing positivity rate dipped slightly to 20% for the week, meaning 1 in 5 students who get tested are coming back positive.

Despite that surge, ISU's two asymptomatic testing sites will be closed for four straight days over the Labor Day holiday weekend. The sites are closed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Students can still get tested at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, except for Monday, when it is also closed.

At the University of Illinois, which has a much more robust testing program, several of its testing locations remain open on the weekend and on Labor Day.

Testing is available for symptomatic students in the Student Health Services on Friday, but not Monday.

Countywide, 217 new cases were reported Friday, although it's likely the public already knew about those cases earlier in the week. That's because ISU reports its new cases out to the public before the county's health department is notified and does the same.

The county's health department has been unable to report age-specific information about new cases since last Sunday.

There are currently six people hospitalized. That’s two fewer than 24 hours ago. Two people are currently in intensive care. More than 1,000 others are isolating at home.


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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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