Fact Check: Tiritilli's COVID Criticism Of Koos Misses The Mark | WGLT

Fact Check: Tiritilli's COVID Criticism Of Koos Misses The Mark

Mar 11, 2021

Normal Mayor Chris Koos and his challenger, Marc Tiritilli, disagree on what’s the most important issue facing the community. During a WGLT debate this week, Koos argued that it’s COVID-19. Tiritilli said “COVID is a crisis, but it’s not the most important issue facing the community. The most important is division. That subsumes all of the other issues.”

Tiritilli said some of Koos’ actions on COVID have exacerbated what he considers the “division” problem. Tiritilli argued those actions “really haven’t bent the curve” anyway.

However, several of Tiritilli’s statements related to Koos’ COVID actions are not true. Others are misleading. Here is what he said:

“In fact, some of the methods that Mayor Koos has gone about to address COVID has exacerbated the (division) problem. So the actions he’s taken really haven’t bent the curve. We got all upset with the Nelk Boys, and there was no spike. We got upset with Joe’s Station House, and there was no spike. We instituted lockdowns on certain parties—did it disproportionately—and we had the biggest spike in the entire curve,” Tiritilli said.

Statement #1: “We got all upset with the Nelk Boys, and there was no spike.”

This is not true.

YouTube stars the Nelk Boys passed through Normal on Sept. 8, attracting huge crowds of unmasked young people, including many Illinois State University students. ISU officials, who were dealing with a major COVID outbreak among students, said they would pursue discipline against those students involved. Koos said “the town would pursue action against not only the Nelk Boys, but also those who invited the YouTube stars to campus,” according to The Pantagraph.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos is seeking a fifth term in the April 6 election.
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT

One week later, on Sept. 14, McLean County tallied what was then a record for active COVID cases—1,419 people. That spike included hundreds of college students. On Sept. 23, McLean County saw what was then a record 12 people hospitalized with COVID. (Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, with increases typically following behind case counts.)

Statement #2: “We got upset with Joe’s Station House, and there was no spike.”

This is not true.

The Pritzker administration banned indoor service at bars and restaurants on Nov. 4. A handful of businesses in Bloomington-Normal, including Joe’s Station House in Normal, defied the ban.

Normal Police responded to Joe’s for complaints about the issue at least twice during the week after Nov. 4. On Nov. 16, Koos (who is also the town’s liquor commissioner) sent Joe’s a letter about the alleged violations, asking for voluntary compliance.

“As a liquor licensee in the Town of Normal, you have the duty to follow the law,” Koos wrote. “A violation may subject you to fines or to the suspension or revocation of your liquor license.”

The same day Koos sent that letter—Nov. 16—McLean County recorded what’s still the highest number of active COVID cases for any single day: 1,559 people. Hospitalizations (again, a lagging indicator) hit a new record of 23 people on Nov. 24.

A study published March 5 confirmed that state-imposed mask mandates and on-premises dining restrictions help slow the spread of COVID-19, NPR reported.

Statement #3: “We instituted lockdowns on certain parties—did it disproportionately—and we had the biggest spike in the entire curve.”

This is misleading.

Tiritilli appears here to be referencing an emergency order Koos issued on Aug. 28 that prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people around ISU’s campus, as defined by the town’s parking impact zone, plus at all other multifamily residential buildings in town.

That order came toward the front end of ISU’s major outbreak, when over 1,300 students tested positive in the first few weeks of the fall semester, which began Aug. 17.

There was a spike at this time: 1,419 active cases recorded on Sept. 14. But that was not the largest spike during the pandemic. That occurred on Nov. 16 (1,559 cases), part of what’s widely considered the second wave in McLean County. That second wave crisscrossed many different age groups, unlike the ISU/September wave.

Also, it’s impossible to say exactly what impact Koos’ emergency order had on the spread of COVID, if any. It’s possible that 1,419 number would have been higher without it; it’s possible it made only a marginal or even no impact on case counts.

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