The largest student apartment landlord in Normal said Friday it will close common areas and disperse crowds at its marquee property in response to COVID-19 concerns about large gatherings.
Young America Realty manages The Lodge on Willow Street, a large apartment complex near Illinois State University, and other off-campus rental housing. Photos of a large off-campus gathering (apparently at The Lodge) circulated on social media last weekend, as ISU students returned to town. ISU President Larry Dietz subsequenty warned students against attending such parties, citing a large weekend gathering where "hundreds of people (were observed) not following the most basic tenets of coronavirus safety—ignoring protocols for physical distancing and wearing of face coverings."
Mayor Chris Koos requested Young American close the common areas at The Lodge, the company said. Young America President Andy Netzer issued the following statement Friday:
"Young America takes seriously the public-health risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. Since the first governmental orders, Young America has embraced precautions in accordance with guidelines provided by federal, state and local health authorities.
“We are fully cooperating with the Town of Normal, including with their recent request to close certain common areas, including pools, spas, fire pits, and grill areas, of The Lodge on Willow. Further, we have maintained a third-party, security detail at that property who have received specific instructions from us to disperse crowds. We join the chorus of community voices asking the residents of our properties to consider the community impact of their personal decisions."
McLean County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases as college students were invited to return to Bloomington-Normal. The testing positivity rate also is on the rise.
Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington has reported 29 positive cases among students, including 19 linked to similar off-campus gatherings where masks were not worn, and social distancing did not occur.
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