Coronavirus Blog 3/13/20: ISU Tightens Access as Woodford County COVID-19 Case Detected | WGLT

Coronavirus Blog 3/13/20: ISU Tightens Access as Woodford County COVID-19 Case Detected

Mar 13, 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.

ISU FURTHER REDUCES CAMPUS PRESENCE

4:302 p.m. Saturday, March 14

University President Larry Dietz said in a notice to the campus that beginning Tuesday, March 17, the university will encourage staff who can work from home to do so in response to the coronavirus. ISU will maintain limited staff in campus offices and buildings.

“While I am not mandating staff to work from home, I do want to increase the number of employees who are working remotely to the greatest extent possible,” said Dietz. “This will support social distancing efforts, in a way that still supports the necessary operations of the University.”

The message to the campus indicated decisions about who can telecommute must be made in consultation with department leadership. Not everyone’s job duties will allow a work-from-home option. Departments and Human Resources will decide.

COUNTRY FINANCIAL ENCOURAGES EMPLOYEES TO WORK FROM HOME
9:30 p.m. Friday, March 13

Country Financial on Friday said it was encouraging all of its employees to work from home now through March 27.

Country's corporate buildings in Bloomington will remain open, but employees are encouraged to work remotely if they're able to do so.

Country has also restricted all non-essential business travel for its employees and agents.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

NORMAL CHILDREN'S MUSEUM, LIBRARY, THEATER CLOSED
6:30 p.m. Friday, March 13

The Town of Normal’s Cultural Arts Department will temporarily close to the public starting on Saturday, March 14, to help limit large gatherings for health and safety.

This includes the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Normal Theater. Both sites will remain closed through March 30.

The Normal Public Library is also closed, until further notice.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

PRITZKER CLOSES ALL SCHOOLS
4:15 p.m. Friday, March 13

Gov. JB Pritzker announced that all schools in Illinois will be closed from Tuesday, March 17, through Monday, March 30, due to the coronavirus.

Read the full story.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ISU'S VANISHING STUDENTS
3:15 p.m. Friday, March 13

The coronavirus is about the exact an economic cost on the many businesses and workers who rely on consumer spending from Illinois State University students.

Spending by ISU, its employees, and its students directly contributes more than $550 million to the McLean County economy annually, according to a 2016 study. That spending also returns more than $18 million in tax revenues to the area.

That impact will shrink considerably in the next month. ISU has closed its dorms, extended spring break by one week, and switched to online-only classes through at least April 12. That means fewer students will be spending money at stores, restaurants, and even auto repair shops in Bloomington-Normal.

“It’s going to be significant,” said Frank Beck from ISU’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development and one of the 2016 study’s co-authors.

Read the full story.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

NPR SPECIAL AIRS TONIGHT, MONDAY ON WGLT
12:15 p.m. Friday, March 13

WGLT will a new NPR special report, "COVID-19: What You Need To Know," at 7 p.m. Friday with a repeat at 11 a.m. Monday.

Hosted by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, this special report will feature some of NPR’s strongest reporting on the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The focus is on what we have learned about the virus and its implications for individuals and the American public as a whole, rather than the latest infection numbers and news updates.

Listen on 89.1 FM or stream at WGLT.org.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

ILLINOIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA POSTPONES PERFORMANCES AT LEAST A MONTH
2:35 p.m. Friday, March 13

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra has made the decision to cancel or postpone all scheduled performances and events through, at least, the next 30 days to limit community transmission of COVID-19.

— Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

UNIT 5 CANCELS SCHOOL FOR MONDAY

12 p.m. Friday, March 13

There will be no school for Unit 5 students on Monday, March 16, to give teachers time to prepare for potential e-learning days in the future.

The Normal-based school district says the plan is for students to return to school Tuesday, March 17.

All staff members will report to their schools at their normal work time on Monday to prepare for e-learning, in the event it is needed in the future should the coronavirus threat worsen. Other districts are also preparing for e-learning days.

At this time, Unit 5 has canceled:

  • All events and sporting events, beginning March 13 through March 29 that are open to parents and the public (reading nights, carnivals, art shows, athletic events, etc.).
  • All rentals of our building facilities, beginning March 13 through March 29. The Foodmobile on Saturday, March 14, at Normal West will continue as planned.
  • All school dances, beginning March 13 through March 29.
  • All school-organized spring break trips.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

HOTELS HIT HARD BY CANCELLATIONS, LOST BUSINESS TRAVEL
11 a.m. Friday, March 13

The Bloomington-Normal hotel industry started 2020 off strong.

Booking were solid thanks to big events like the Illinois High School Theatre Festival at Illinois State University. And Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington hosted three state finals for wrestling, competitive cheer, and competitive dance. Now, the coronavirus has changed all that.

“It’s killing us,” said Ray Ceresa, president of the Bloomington Normal Hotel & Lodging Association. “We had a very, very positive outlook for our market for the year. This week, we just took three or four steps backward. It’s frustrating.”

Two major Bloomington-Normal events have already been canceled: the Special Olympics Illinois state basketball tournament, and a robotics competition for high schoolers at ISU. The Special Olympics tournament led to 900 room bookings for 3,000 visitors. The robotics competition had 1,000 people and 225 hotel rooms.

Read the full story.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT

State Farm has told its employees to work from home if they can.
Credit Ralph Weisheit

STATE FARM CLARIFIES WORK FROM HOME
7:15 a.m. Friday, March 13

State Farm late Thursday issued an updated statement clarifying how it plans to allow most employees to work from home.

Earlier in the day, State Farm announced it was instructing employees to work from home if they're able. State Farm employees who are not equipped to work from home were urged to speak to their leaders about paid administrative leave.

In the updated statement, State Farm provided clarity around work-from-home technology options:

"While today every employee does not have the ability to work from home, and may continue to work in one of our facilities, we are working quickly on tools to make it possible for most employees to work from home. We are prioritizing tools for employees who are customer-facing. If an employee or a family member are at higher risk or a member of a special population as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, they can visit with their leadership about options, including paid administrative leave."

State Farm has no known confirmed employee infections.

— Ryan Denham | WGLT