Coronavirus Blog 3/12/20: State Farm Says Work From Home | WGLT

Coronavirus Blog 3/12/20: State Farm Says Work From Home

Mar 11, 2020

The coronavirus story is developing quickly in Illinois. Here are updates from WGLT's newsroom and our partners at Illinois Public Radio, NPR, and The Associated Press.

You can also see (or add to) our list of cancellations, closures, and rescheduled events. Find all of our coverage at WGLT.org/Coronavirus.

IHSA CANCELS MARCH MADNESS IN PEORIA
8:50 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Illinois High School Association on Thursday canceled all remaining winter activities, including the Boys Basketball Tournament in Peoria.

IHSA Director Craig Anderson said while the state and local health department supported continuing the tournament with spectator restrictions, multiple schools were withdrawing from participating or hosting the events. Anderson said it's too soon to make any decisions about spring tournaments.

Read the full story at WCBU.org.

— Tim Shelley | WCBU

ISU WORKS TO BRING STUDENTS BACK FROM ABROAD
6:45 p.m. Thursday, March 12

Illinois State University continues to work to retrieve students studying abroad.

At the start of the semester spokesperson Eric Jome says that number was about 116 students in other countries. Jome said Thursday there may be about 95 students still to return to the U.S.

Read the full story.

ILLINOIS COVID-19 COUNT CLIMBS
5:11 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Illinois Department of Public Health is adding seven to the count of people confirmed in the state with COVID-19. That brings the total to 32 people.

Nearly a third of the people caught it during travel. Around 44% have had contact with someone else who fell ill. IDPH said the source of the remaining cases isn't clear but could be community spread.

No deaths are reported from COVID-19 in Illinois.

- Charlie Schlenker | WGLT  

STATE FARM IMPLEMENTS WORK-FROM-HOME POLICY
4:40 p.m. Thursday, March 12

State Farm told employees to work from home if they can. It’s unclear how many workers this affects in Bloomington-Normal. A statement from the company urges employees who cannot work remotely to talk to supervisors about paid administrative leave. The company with roughly 15,000 employees in central Illinois is also extending business travel restrictions through April.

Read the full story.

— Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

'LIMITED RESOURCES' RESTRICT TESTING LOCALLY
3:58 p.m. Thursday, March 12

"Limited resources" continue to restrict who can be tested for COVID-19 in McLean County, officials said Thursday.

Less than five people have been tested for COVID-19 in McLean County as of Thursday, the county's Health Department said in a statement. There have been no confirmed cases yet in McLean County.

Currently, testing in McLean County is limited to those meeting CDC criteria: travel from the Warning Level 3 countries and displaying symptoms.

Read the full story.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS SET E-LEARNING

3:45 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria has announced it is closing schools next week with plans to being e-learning starting on March 18. That includes Central Catholic High School, Corpus Christi School and St. Mary's School in Bloomington and Epiphany School in Normal. 

The diocese is also suspending its obligation to attend Sunday Mass and urging anyone over age 60 not to attend. 

- Eric Stock | WGLT 

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN EXTENDS BREAK
3:24 p.m. Thursday, March 12

Illinois Wesleyan University has delayed a return from spring break until Sunday, March 22. Students will use distance learning for that next week. IWU says in a letter to the campus it will re-evaluate at that time.

All student events are canceled. Students may not return to campus without permission until March 29. Staff and faculty will continue to work on campus.

— Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

ARC SENIOR CENTER SUSPENDS PROGRAMMING
2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) in Normal has suspended its programming effectively immediately.

The ARC announced the change Thursday, citing "recommendations for social distancing and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our members." Older adults, like those who frequent the ARC, are at higher risk of getting very sick from the coronavirus.

The center will open at 8 a.m. Friday for tax appointments, SHIP appointments with Medicare counselors, and pickup of prepackaged Peace Meal lunches only.

The Normal Township Board will meet Saturday to discuss policies and procedures ARC will follow moving forward.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

UNIT 5 CONCERTS CANCELED
2:10 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Unit 5 Chorale Showcase on Thursday and the Normal West Jazz Night on Friday have been canceled.

Unit 5 says "this decision is out of the utmost precaution, given that each event draws more than 1,000 people, including many parents, grandparents, and family friends."

At this time these are the only events impacted by a change, based on the size and makeup of this activity, according to a Facebook post from Unit 5.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

HEARTLAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE EXTENDS BREAK
1:36 p.m. Thursday, March 12

Heartland Community College has joined the throng of higher education institutions extending breaks and preparing for online coursework. The new break will last through March 20 for the school in Normal. President Keith Cornille says further messages will come about changes in education delivery methods.

College offices remain open for businesses.

Heartland has canceled study abroad programs for the summer, suspended travel to conferences and workshops, and will do case-by-case reviews of planned large gatherings on campus.

— Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

IN SHIFT, MISSOURI VALLEY WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT IS CANCELED
1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The Missouri Valley Conference announced that it has canceled the MVC Women's Basketball Tournament scheduled to begin Thursday at TaxSlayer Center in Moline.

In addition, the MVC has announced that all conference spring sports contests have been suspended through March 30, effective immediately. This does not apply to teams and individuals in NCAA competition.

"The main priority of the conference continues to be the well-being and safety of its student-athletes, administrators, coaches, media and fans," the conference said in a statement. "The league and its institutions will continue to work closely with local governments and health departments in monitoring the COVID-19 situation internationally and domestically."

The Redbird women's basketball team was scheduled to open Hoops In The Heartland tournament play against Northern Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

BRADLEY SWITCHES TO ONLINE-ONLY CLASSES
1:25 p.m. Thursday, March 12

Following other Illinois campuses, Bradley University said Thursday it will be switching to online classes starting March 30.

Bradley's spring break was scheduled for the week of March 16. That's now been extended into a second week.

"Classes will go online from March 30 through April 12. We will assess where things stand with COVID-19 daily and provide updates as new decisions are made," Bradley said.

Learn more at Bradley.edu/Coronavirus.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

AMTRAK RESPONSE
12:59 p.m. Thursday, March 12

Amtrak bookings have dropped by half nationwide as the coronavirus circulates. Cancellations have risen 300%. The passenger rail service tells workers they can expect reductions in train service and voluntary unpaid leave. As yet, it is unclear what that means for the Chicago to St. Louis corridor and service to Uptown Station in Normal.

Amtrak said it will not charge change fees on bookings made through April 30 as a response to the rapidly shifting landscape.

Amtrak said coronavirus-related disruptions may mean the service will lose several hundred million dollars in revenue this fiscal year.

MCLEAN COUNTY JAIL VISITATION
12:01 p.m. Thursday, March 12

The McLean County sheriff has halted in-house visitation at the jail because of coronavirus concern. Sheriff Jon Sandage says all visitation will need to happen from remote locations.

The sheriff has suspended in-house jail volunteer programs. And inmates brought to the detention facility face more medical screening questions.

— Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

VOTING ASSISTANCE
11:48 a.m. Thursday, March 12

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael says Illinois State University students disrupted by the coronavirus-caused extension of break can still vote. Campus polling places will remain open Tuesday because some area residents also vote there.

For those who have left Bloomington-Normal at university direction, Michael says they can vote early, vote by mail until 7 p.m. Thursday, or re-register to vote in their home county and do early voting or go to the polls there if they present proper ID.

As for retirement communities that are losing their polling places from concern over safety, Michael says her office is offering on-site help with voting by mail at Evergreen Place and the McLean County nursing home.

The Bloomington Election Commission is doing the same at Westminster Village.

— Charlie Schlenker | WGLT

YOUNG AMERICA OFFERS FREE HOUSING FOR DISPLACED STUDENTS
11:10 a.m. Thursday, March 12

The Young America apartment management company is offering around 100 vacant beds rent-free to Illinois State University students displaced by the coronavirus.

ISU announced Wednesday its dorms would remain closed. ISU students were asked to stay at their permanent home residences until further notice, and students now living in residence halls should return to their permanent home residences.

In response, Young America will offer free temporary housing on a week-by-week basis until the dorms reopen or the spring semester ends. The 100 beds are in fully empty but furnished units.

Read the full story.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

IHSA CLOSES MARCH MADNESS TOURNAMENT TO THE PUBLIC
9 a.m. Thursday, March 12

The Illinois High School Association is closing the remaining games in the Boys Basketball Tournament to the public.

The IHSA said it is limiting the remaining games at the Peoria Civic Center to 60 spectators after consulting with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Peoria City/County Health Department on COVID-19 concerns.

The spectator limit also applies to the Normal West sectional championship game vs. Collinsville at Pekin High School on March 13. Normal West athletic director Stan Lewis said the school has canceled its student fan bus and will give priority to the players' families. There will be no general admission tickets available.  The school's cheerleading squad will also not attend due to unerlated illnesses. 

Learn more at WCBU.org.

— Tim Shelley | WCBU and Eric Stock | WGLT

IWU VOLLEYBALL HEADS BACK FROM EUROPE
7:15 a.m. Thursday, March 12

The Illinois Wesleyan University volleyball team was scheduled to depart Munich, Germany, at 6 a.m. CT and head back to the U.S., a university spokesperson said.

The team's return comes hours after President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the United States, beginning on Friday at midnight, in a bid "to keep new cases" of coronavirus "from entering our shores." The restrictions would only apply to foreign nationals, not American citizens or legal permanent residents.

Not including the volleyball team, IWU has 44 students studying abroad in Europe.

"In light of the new information, we are actively evaluating what is best for our students and staff who are away from campus," IWU spokesperson John Twork late Wednesday. "As soon as decisions are made, we will communicate those."

IWU is currently on spring break and is scheduled to resume classes March 16.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

SHARIN OF THE GREEN PARADE CANCELED
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11

The Sharin' of the Green parade in Uptown Normal, scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled.

Co-sponsors Radio Bloomington shared the cancellation Wednesday night on social media.

The 10th annual event raises money for Children’s Home & Aid’s Central Region.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

ISU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SET TO PLAY
5:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 11

As the NCAA announced plans to play its marquee tournaments with no fans in attendance, the Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball tournament in Moline is going ahead as scheduled.

The Redbird women's basketball team is scheduled to open Hoops In The Heartland tournament play against Northern Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

"The current plan is to play the tournament without any adjustment to those who may attend," the Valley said in a statement. "This is consistent with advice of local health authorities, TaxSlayer Center and Visit Quad Cities. Everyone involved is taking strong preventive measures at the arena and the hotels to ensure the health and safety of our teams and fans.

"We are taking one further precaution which is to open sections of the upper bowl to accommodate social distancing for any fans that may wish to take advantage of this."

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CANCELS WORK
5 p.m. Wednesday, March 11

The Illinois General Assembly is canceling its work days next week. Lawmakers say they’re doing their part to prevent community spread of the coronavirus disease.

Session days can draw thousands of people to the Capitol — from legislators to everyday citizens.

Officials are also banning large groups from the Capitol complex in Springfield, including rallies and school tours.

Public health authorities say “social distancing” is one of the key ways to prevent, or at least slow, the spread of COVID-19.

— Brian Mackey | NPR Illinois