ISU Students Among Those Testing Positive For COVID-19 | WGLT

ISU Students Among Those Testing Positive For COVID-19

May 4, 2020

There are Illinois State University students who have tested positive for COVID-19, though there have not been any known campus-related exposures, officials said Monday.

The McLean County Health Department confirmed that an unspecified number of students have tested positive. A health department spokesperson said the lack of campus-related exposures was likely due to the stay-at-home order. The ISU campus has essentially been closed for students since March 6. They are finishing the semester with online learning.

There are around 16 people in their 20s who have tested positive for the coronavirus in McLean County, including three people since Friday, according to the county’s COVID-19 data tracker. It's unknown if any ISU students are among them.

ISU spokesperson Eric Jome said Monday the university has not received any official notice of positive cases among students. But he said they would only expect such notification if the person was still living or working on campus for some reason, he said, and very few are doing that.

It’s unclear how many of ISU’s 20,600+ students are still living in McLean County right now. Dorms are largely closed, and over two-thirds of ISU’s student body lives off campus. Some have gone back to their permanent residence, while others remain in Bloomington-Normal in their off-campus apartments.

A little more than a week ago, ISU President Larry Dietz told the university Board of Trustees he was aware of only a couple ISU-related cases—one faculty member and one student. Dietz said neither of those was in Bloomington-Normal, but in the home communities of those with COVID-19.

WGLT asked the health department whether those living in off-campus student apartments would be notified if someone in their building or complex had tested positive.

“MCHD will work to identify close contacts to monitor for symptoms,” said MCHD spokesperson Dion McNeal. “There is no requirement that a landlord notifies other residents. For privacy reasons, we do not normally disclose this information. There may be instances where we might need to publicize a location or an event if we are unable to identify close contacts.”

With the nice weather Saturday, the Normal Police Department received nine calls about social-distancing concerns and 12 additional calls about loud music or disturbances, mostly near the ISU campus, Police Chief Rick Bleichner said Monday. They haven’t had to issue any ordinance violations and people have voluntarily complied when officers arrived, Bleichner said. He said he was unaware of any massive parties.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos signed an executive order in early April empowering police to enforce social distancing, after several gatherings were reported in town. At the time, Koos said students had not been the sole offenders but that ISU was consulted.

Rumors are circulating that someone living at The Lodge on Willow student apartment complex has tested positive for COVID-19. Young America manages the property. Its general manager, Andy Netzer, said he has heard the rumors too.

When asked about the rumors, MCHD’s spokesperson responded: “We get complaints and public health disturbance among other requests from our residents; however, our job is to follow up on those requests and not rumors.”

No Lodge residents have reached out to Young America to disclose a positive test, Netzer said, and the health department has not formally notified his company.

“It puts us in a privacy pickle,” Netzer said. “Everybody should just assume those germs are everywhere.”

As a precaution the fitness center and pool are closed at The Lodge, which is one of the largest apartment complexes in Bloomington-Normal with around 570 beds.

Netzer said police have responded periodically to The Lodge for social-distancing calls. But he acknowledged the difficulty, even for police, in enforcing the stay-at-home order.

“We don’t enforce laws. We enforce leases, and even then it’s not easy,” Netzer said.

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