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

Pritzker: Students Should Stay On Campus If They Quarantine

Gov. JB Pritzker speaking at news conference
Eric Stock
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday college students should quarantine on campus if they test positive for the coronavirus, or they must be isolated.

During a visit to Illinois State University on Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker commended the Town of Normal for putting in needed restrictions, but said it will take personal responsibility to control the coronavirus.
“Enforcement has always been a challenge because we don’t want to cite people, we certainly don’t want to arrest people who aren’t wearing a mask, or who aren’t following the provisions of our mask mandate or gathering mandates. But at the same time, we need to make sure the message gets across to people,” Pritzker said.

Last week, the Town of Normal approved an emergency ordinance that calls for crowd limits in and around the Illinois State University campus. Fines can run as high as $750.

The new guidelines already have been put to the test as several hundred students gathered at multiple locations on Tuesday night, following a visit from YouTube pranksters called the NELK Boys.

McLean County is one of 29 counties under a COVID-19 warning designation, due in part to its higher COVID testing positivity rate, which for the last seven days stands at 9.9% The region that includes McLean County is approaching health targets that could lead to additional mitigations if that continues.

The county’s sharp rise in coronavirus cases is due largely to the return of college students.

Pritzker acknowledged COVID has been a problem on many college campuses. He said students who test positive for the coronavirus or need to quarantine should stay on campus to help limit spread of the disease.

“It’s less ideal to send students home who test positive,” Pritzker said. “They should quarantine in place. Sending them home has the potential to add to the numbers of people who contract COVID-19.”

Pritzker also commended Bradley University in Peoria for having its students quarantine on campus for two weeks. The governor said testing and contact tracing remain the best ways to contain the spread, noting Illinois is the third-highest testing state in the country--at nearly 50,000 tests per day.

Contact tracing remains a challenge in McLean County. Given the recent surge of cases tied to the ISU community, the county health department has said it's overwhelmed and it may take several days before a contact tracer will call someone who tests positive.

The county has only filled about half of the 40 additional contact tracing jobs. Pritzker said McLean County has done a good job hiring while the state's role is to come up with the funding, which it did.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health does not dictate to county departments of public health how they should do something, what exactly they should do,” Pritzker said. “There is a partnership and it’s a good partnership, but it is up to the county departments to make the decisions about how quickly they are able to hire.”

Pritzker also said the state is working on a distribution plan for a COVID-19 vaccine, even though there's no clear timeline for when one will be ready. The governor said the state will distribute the vaccine based on availability and priority.

“We want to make sure the people who are most vulnerable are reached first, the people who are most at-risk because of the jobs they have--our frontline workers, our nurses, our doctors, etc. We want to make sure they are covered.”

As for suggestions a vaccine could be ready by the first of November, the governor said that claim is coming from someone who is running for re-election, an apparent reference to President Donald Trump.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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