A programming note: WDWS 1400-AM will carry live a 3 p.m. news conference regarding the first known case of coronavirus in Champaign County by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
The News-Gazette’s Deb Pressey will be in attendance, providing updates here as they develop.
SCHOOL SHUTDOWN: ‘ACT OF GOD’ DAYS
The school days lost during the mandated statewide shutdown won’t have to be made up at year’s end, Champaign district officials clarified Sunday on Facebook:
“Unit 4 received updated information from the Governor’s Office and the Illinois State Board of Education stating: All days that a school is closed pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order will be counted as ‘Act of God Days.’ Emergency Days will not be used. At this time, these ‘Act of God Days’ DO NOT need to be made up at the end of the school year.”
URBANA TO VOTE ON EMERGENCY ORDINANCE
At Monday’s Urbana city council meeting, Mayor Diane Marlin plans to ask members to approve a temporary emergency ordinance addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This emergency declaration is necessary for cities to access state and federal resources to respond to the pandemic,” Marlin said Sunday. “It will help us slow the spread of the virus in the community, protect the health of city employees, and help ensure continuity of essential city services and programs to our residents.”
If adopted, the ordinance would last only until Gov. J.B. Pritzker lifts his disaster declaration or Marlin lifts her declaration of emergency, whichever is later. The council would have the authority to repeal the ordinance before either Pritzker or Marlin lift their declarations.
“The elected officials and city employees are committed to the people of our city,” Marlin stated. “The adoption of this emergency ordinance will preserve our ability to maintain that commitment to safety and service. The authority granted in this ordinance will be used only as necessary to slow the spread of the virus and to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.”
Here’s what the ordinance would do or allow, according to city officials:
— The mayor or council would be able to conduct city business by audio or videoconferencing as provided by the Open Meetings Act.
— The mayor would be able to cancel board and commission meetings and extend deadlines of required actions.
— The mayor may suspend licenses or permits for special events or other licenses or permits which could reasonably impact the spread, containment, or treatment of COVID-19 with the city of Urbana.
— The mayor may authorize any purchase reasonably related to COVID-19 through expedited purchasing processes.
— The mayor may seek reimbursement of expenditures from any state or federal agency related to city efforts to address or contain the spread or treatment of COVID-19.
— The mayor may adjust or adopt personnel policies related to leave time, benefits or conditions of employment to provide sufficient staffing during the term of the emergency.
— The mayor may enter into temporary agreements or memorandums of understanding with city bargaining units in order to provide city services and ensure the health and safety of the public and employees during the emergency.
— The mayor may close or limit access to city facilities to protect the health of the public and city employees and preserve continuity of operations.
— The mayor may direct the city attorney to extend time-frames for city ordinance violations to be paid or filings to be made.
— The mayor may extend deadlines for payments due to the city.
— The mayor will be afforded general “police” or government powers related to health, life and safety within the City of Urbana that would have the effect of law. The ordinance also provides for delegation of powers in the case of the Mayor’s absence or incapacity.
Here’s a list of what the ordinance would not do or allow, according to the city:
— The mayor would not be authorized to interfere with the supply chain or delivery of goods to local businesses or consumers.
— The mayor would not be able to limit purchases by consumers of goods or services from local businesses.
— Nothing would allow the mayor to infringe upon constitutional rights afforded to all U.S. citizens.
Monday’s council meeting will be open to the public but occupancy limits and social distancing will be “strictly enforced,” the city said Sunday, adding: “Those choosing to attend should wash their hands thoroughly or sanitize once inside the building. If a member of the public has any symptoms of illness, for the sake of all other community members, please stay home and watch the broadcast on Urbana Public Television.”
SCHNUCKS REDUCING HOURS
Schnucks on Sunday announced a temporary reduction in hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All stores that are normally open 24 hours will close at midnight. All other stores will close at 10 p.m.
All stores will reopen daily at 6 a.m.
“We are continuing to see an increase in customers and this temporary reduction in hours will allow us time to focus solely on store cleanliness and product availabilty,” the company announced. “Our supply partners and warehouse teams continue to work around the clock to ensure that product is available to our customers as quickly as possible.”
SHERIFF: NO EVICTIONS IN APRIL
The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office has suspended all court-ordered evictions through April, Sheriff Dustin Heuerman announced Sunday.
“Regardless of the impact the actual virus has on our county, there is already an economic impact effecting many residents,” Heuerman said. “This is a rapidly evolving situation and we’re not sure what the next month will bring.”
CARLE ANNOUNCES RESTRICTIONS
From Deb Pressey: The Carle health system has begun restricting visitors in response to COVID-19.
Patients can bring no more than one support person to their appointments, Carle announced on Twitter.
Additional family members involved in a patient’s care can be included by phone, and drivers should wait outside the facilities.
DURBIN, DUCKWORTH: HELP NEEDED AT O’HARE
In a joint statement Sunday, Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth called on the federal government to provide additional resources to 13 large airports — Chicago’s O’Hare in particular — to help screen passengers in the wake of President Donald Trump’s directive regarding travelers arriving from certain countries.
“Not only do these extensive wait times cause issues for the airport and its travelers, but given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it increases the risk for the City of Chicago and all who pass through it, as it contradicts current public health guidelines for masses of people to be in such close proximity to one another at this time,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote. “We request that you expedite the process of providing guidelines and the necessary resources, including staff and any required screening apparatus and processes, to these 13 airports to ensure their operations are not disrupted and that public health is preserved.”
n a call with Vice President Mike Pence Sunday, Durbin said he secured a commitment for increased resources at O’Hare.
RESTAURANTS TO FEED KIDS FOR FREE
Not long after Pritzker called off school for kids statewide starting next week came the question: What about students who rely on free school breakfast and/or lunch as their only meals of the day?
Coming to the rescue within hours: El Toro locations throughout Champaign, Maize at the Station and McAlister’s Delis statewide.
Here’s a running list of establishments and organizations that will feed kids for free from Monday through Friday during the mandated school shutdown (March 17 through 29) due to the coronavirus pandemic. To submit a new entry or share something you heard, email email@example.com.
— El Toro (locations throughout Champaign)
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, all El Toro restaurants in Champaign will provide students with a free meal from the kids menu.
“We know things are uncertain right now, and we want to help,” El Toro posted Saturday on Facebook. “… We hope this helps in some small way.”
— Maize at the Station (100 N. Chestnut St., C)
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, the downtown Champaign restaurant will provide free lunch — a Mexican sandwich (torta) or quesadilla, along with a serving of rice, beans and juice — to all students.
No purchase by a parent is required; just ask for the kids special “and we will know,” Maize announced Saturday via Facebook, adding: “You have supported us since our opening in 2011. It’s our turn to help where we can and support those that need it.”
— McAlister’s Deli (21 W. Town Center Blvd., C)
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, every kid who wants one will be given a free sack lunch that contains a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, chips, applesauce and a cookie. No other purchase is necessary.
“We want to do our part to make sure our friends get through this challenging time,” the company announced. “So take this worry off your plate, and put it on ours. We will get through it. Together.”
ELECTION DAY LOGISTICS
If you plan to vote at Urbana’s city building during Tuesday’s primary election, officials announced this slight change on Sunday:
“Access to the City building for voting purposes will be restricted to the northeast entrance door (the side of the building closest to the tree sculpture and reflecting pool). This door typically serves as outside access for the UPTV studio, but it will be open for voters to gain entrance into the City Council chambers where polling will take place as usual.
“There will be signage directing voters to the proper door to enter and exit for polling purposes. Hours for the polling place to stay open will remained unchanged.
“Voters driving to the City Building should park in the north parking lot at the building and use the metered spots. Parking meters in the north parking lot will not be enforced on Tuesday.”
FAKE NEWS ALERT
A Judah Christian School administrator reported that someone posted on Snapchat a story made to appear as if it had been published by The News-Gazette saying a student had tested positive for COVID-19.
Jenn Lance, director of business operations for the private school, said on Saturday that no students have been infected, and she did not know the source of the rumored post.
The News-Gazette has not published any such story.
IFC CANCELS MAY TOURNAMENT
Added to the local cancellations list Saturday: the Illinois Futbol Club’s spring tournament, which organizers expected to draw 7,000 to 8,000 people to Champaign-Urbana over the May 1-3 weekend.
About 155 teams that had registered for the event, to be held on the UI campus, were notified Saturday.
In a separate email to club members, IFC board President Skip Maier wrote: “This is disappointing for all of us, especially for the kids, and we are sad to have to take this action. The Board will be meeting again this coming week to make decisions about upcoming training schedules and other club events, and we will communicate any decisions to you as quickly as possible.”
CONFIRMED CENTRAL ILLINOIS CASES
From our Mary Schenk late Saturday:
A patient who was treated in the emergency room of Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center has tested positive for coronavirus.
The man in his 70s, from Cumberland County, is quarantining at home, a hospital spokeswoman said.
His case was among 66 confirmed as of Saturday by the Illinois Department of Public Health and one of six cases in downstate Illinois.
The others were a man in his 70s in Woodford County, a resident of Sangamon County, a woman from Florida who was hospitalized while visiting family in Springfield, and two women from St. Clair County in their 60s and 70s.
As of Saturday, there had been no confirmed cases in Champaign County, said Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde.
“The Illinois Department of Public Health notified us (Friday) evening that a person tested in our ER was positive for the virus. This person resides in our 10-county service area and is self quarantining,” said Patty Peterson, director of public relations for Sara Bush Lincoln in Mattoon.
“Our emergency room staff was aware the patient was arriving and so the patient was met in the parking lot and provided personal protective equipment like a mask and brought into our ER through a back entrance. These are precautions we put in place so the person can avoid contact with anybody else in our ER area. The patient was tested and went home the same day.”
Peterson did not know what day the person was tested at Sarah Bush Lincoln, which serves Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Moultrie and Shelby counties.
Peterson said the hospital ramped up visitor restrictions Friday so that patients are allowed only one support person during a clinic or hospital visit.
IDPH is working to learn how all the newly confirmed cases may have been exposed to the virus so that people in close contact with them may be notified. The confirmed cases are in Cook, Kane, DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties in northern Illinois; Cumberland and Woodford in central Illinois; and St. Clair in the southwestern part of the state.
Saturday’s number was up 20 from Friday as the citizenry is adjusting to shutdowns intended to flatten the curve of the growing cases.