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COVID, State Farm Lead WGLT’s Most-Read Stories Of 2020

Rally
Ryan Denham
/
WGLT
Hundreds took part in a community gathering May 31, 2020, outside the McLean County Law and Justice Center to protest the killing of George Floyd.

2020 was a blur. So many important things happened in the Bloomington-Normal community, from COVID-19 to racial justice protests to the recession. Oh, and a presidential election.

Here is a look at the 10 most-read stories from 2020 on WGLT.org.

1. Remembering Dani Kater, COVID’s Youngest McLean County Victim

Danielle Kater, a 30-year-old from Bloomington, was the youngest person we lost to COVID this year. Her family bravely stepped forward to tell their story, starting with this heartbreaking interview with WGLT’s Dana Vollmer. Kater’s family later spoke at one of Gov. JB Pritzker’s daily briefings about the importance of taking COVID precautions seriously.

2. State Farm To Return Up To $2 Billion To Auto Customers

Stay-at-home orders due to COVID meant fewer people were driving. Less driving means fewer car crashes. Fewer car crashes means big savings for auto insurers. State Farm, Country Financial, and many other U.S. auto insurance companies sent some of that money back to customers. Bloomington-based State Farm, of course, is the largest auto insurer in the U.S.

3. Normal Couple Flush With Cash After Deal On 'Shark Tank'

Adam and Katie Stephey appeared on ABC’s business reality TV show “Shark Tank” and walked away with a $200,000 investment for their company. They invented the Toilet Timer, which Adam first introduced to WGLT listeners back in 2017. Fun fact: The Stepheys were actually the third Bloomington-Normal startup to appear on “Shark Tank.”

Sign
Credit Staff / WGLT
/
WGLT
A sign hangs at a Bloomington laundromat last spring when the stay-at-home order first went into effect.

4. Looters Hit Target, Walmart In Normal As Unrest Grows

Several Bloomington-Normal stores were looted in late May/early June, at the height of social justice protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. The protests were largely peaceful. The looting was not. Dozens of suspects were arrested, and they are still winding their way through the courts. One judge has taken an especially tough stance.

5. Back-To-School COVID Outbreak At Illinois State University

McLean County’s fight with COVID has had many chapters. One of them was the fall 2020 spike, sparked by the return of college students to Bloomington-Normal. More than 1,000 Illinois State University students tested positive in the first two weeks of the fall semester. That spike eventually subsided, no thanks to a bizarre visit from some reckless YouTube stars.

6. Police: Concealed Carry Masks Are OK During Pandemic

Gov. JB Pritzker's requirement that everyone wear a mask in public during the pandemic created a problem for gun owners. Concealing your identity with a mask while concealing a weapon is against the law, leaving police to sort out these conflicting directives. WGLT’s Eric Stock spoke with local law enforcement to clear up any confusion about it.

7. First Confirmed COVID-19 Case Reported In McLean County

The pandemic officially arrived in McLean County in mid-March, when a man in his 70s with no history of travel or exposure tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized. It took about 157 days (from March to August) before we reached 1,000 cases. We’re now at more than 10,000 cases, including 75 deaths.

Empty shelf
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT
/
WGLT
Cleaning products were a little hard to come by this year at Bloomington-Normal stores.

8. State Farm Sends People Home To Work

Thousands of people in Bloomington-Normal lost jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic. For those lucky enough to continue working, a lot of that work was done from home. The cubicle culture of State Farm evolved into a videoconferencing culture, as it did at many other American companies. Employees in mid-March were told to work from home if they could.

9. Surge In COVID Cases Lands McLean County On NYT 'Bad News Ahead' List

Another chapter in our COVID story happened in November, when the second wave hit. This time it wasn’t just 20-somethings. It struck across all age groups. It happened so fast that Bloomington-Normal ended up near the top of The New York Times’ list of "Where There May Be Bad News Ahead." That bad news, ultimately, meant dozens more deaths and hospitals nearing capacity. The stubborn second wave was still with us in December.

10. State Farm To Exit $16.4 Billion Banking Business

Just before the pandemic hit, State Farm announced it was getting out of banking. The company said U.S. Bank would take over existing deposits and credit card accounts. “State Farm is focused on serving more customers in more ways and sometimes that means doing things differently than we have in the past,” a spokesperson said. Here’s a closer look at why.

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