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

YouTube Punishes Pranksters Nelk Boys After ISU Visit; County Adds 77 COVID Cases

NELK boys screengrab
Screenshots from the Nelk Boys Instagram story, documenting their trip to Illinois State University on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

UPDATED 7:35 p.m. | The YouTube stars whose COVID-reckless visit to Illinois State University sparked outrage have been temporarily stripped of the right to make money on the platform.

Meanwhile, McLean County reported 77 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, as the number of local hospitalizations and the testing positivity rate both declined.

ISU said it may discipline students who attended the NELK Boys’ visit to several off-campus locations this week, in violation of public health guidelines surrounding COVID-19. Videos shared by the NELK Boys on social media show them with students in large, maskless crowds.

A YouTube spokesperson said Saturday that it’s “temporarily suspended monetization on the Nelk Boys channel for violating our Creator Responsibility policy.”

“If we see that a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, community, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community. In this case, these creators were encouraging very large groups of people to actively disregard social distancing guidelines from local health authorities that were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, creating a widespread public health risk,” the YouTube spokesperson said.

YouTube also has suspended an associated channel, SteveWillDoIt. They can reapply to the YouTube Partner Program in 30 days, according to the company.

County cases

The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) reported 77 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. Of those, less than half were college-aged people between 18 and 29 years old.

ISU reported seven new positive test results among its students. Around 1,300 students have tested positive to date. ISU’s on-campus testing positivity rate (7-day average) has fallen to 8.2%.

College students have largely driven McLean County’s recent surge in cases. The big question is whether that surge will stay relatively contained to campuses, or if it will spread into the broader Bloomington-Normal community. College students generally live clustered in dorms or off-campus apartments, but they work part-time jobs, shop, and recreate all over the community.

By at least one measure, there has been greater community spread.

There have been around 414 new cases reported in people age 30 and over since Aug. 17, the first day of classes at ISU and Illinois Wesleyan. That was 26 days ago. Here's how that compares to the previous 26-day periods for those 30 and older in McLean County (presumably who are not college students).

  • Aug. 17 to Sept. 12: 414 new cases
  • July 22 to Aug. 17: 167 new cases
  • June 26 to July 22: 83 new cases
  • June 1 to June 26: 15 new cases

There are some positive signs. There are now five people hospitalized (down from nine on Friday), including two intensive care. The county’s testing positivity rate fell to 9.2%, its lowest level Aug. 28. The state’s “warning” level for positivity rate is 8%.
There are now 1,390 active cases in McLean County (mostly people isolating at home). That’s a new record high.

Free testing is available at Bloomington’s Interstate Center every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pre-registration is encouraged (to speed things up) but not required. There are also a few other testing options in McLean County.


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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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