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

ISU Wants To Add Covid-19 Surge Space At Local Hotels

Watterson Towers residence hall at ISU
Illinois State University has secured space in two Bloomington-Normal hotels in case extra rooms are needed to house sick and exposed students during the pandemic.

Illinois State University trustees will consider a contract to use space in two hotels to house any potential overflow of students who become sick, or who have come in close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus.

The university already has set aside 5% of residence hall capacity for isolation of people who have tested positive and quarantine for close contacts. So far, ISU has not been in danger of running out of isolation space. But in materials prepared for the Board of Trustees meeting Friday, the administration noted a need to be proactive and find additional capacity of 94 rooms and meals for those in them for up to 14 days per person.

The clock on the 10-week contact already is running. The period runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 1 of this year, and from Jan. 11 through May 14 of 2021. The exact number of rooms used will vary based on the need for quarantine space. The contract would cap the cost at $1.6 million.


The administration also has asked trustees for permission to move ahead with an agreement to create a lab on campus to process rapid saliva-based tests for COVID-19  developed by the University of Illinois. The contract with the Shield-Illinois program would be contingent on Shield receiving federal Food and Drug Administration approval for wider use of the test than currently deployed on the U of I campus.

The agreement would allow widespread surveillance testing on ISU's campus to control the spread of the virus. The price tag for that contract would top out at $5.5 million. The money would buy up to 275,000 tests at $20 a pop.

Bus service

University administrators also are seeking board approval for another contract extension with Connect Transit to provide bus service to students. ISU and Connect Transit have failed to reach a long-term contract agreement several times. The latest extension for student bus passes would run from January to June of 2021 at a cost up to $289,068. There is no increase in the rate in the current short-term agreement that sunsets at the end of this year.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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