CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — University of Illinois students are coming back to Champaign-Urbana. One former professor says that could mean a huge spike in COVID-19 cases. Eric Jakobsson is a former molecular biology professor. He also has years of experience with creating models, which help with predicting things like rises in cases.

A study Jakobsson worked on, along with informatics graduate student Santiago Nunez-Corrales, shows the increase could be as high as a thousand new cases, including four deaths. That’s on top of the new cases the area’s seeing every day. The predictions are based on about 30-40,000 students returning to campus. However, there are some steps city leaders can take to lower that number.

“The people that are coming in are coming from populations that have a heavy viral load,” explained Jakobsson. There are ways to stop the spike from happening. One is switching bars and restaurants to only pickup or delivery.

“We’re suggesting to the cities that maybe they dial the restaurants and bars back from phase four to phase three for approximately three weeks,” he explained. Champaign and Urbana city leaders are working on emergency orders. One of them could be requiring masks – on a business level and for individuals.

“The single most important thing somebody can do is to cover their face in public,” said Marlin.

Another emergency order could apply to bars and restaurants. It would prohibit customers from eating inside and also prohibit people from standing while at those establishments.

“From an economic standpoint, having the students here and not having them have to be sent home because cases are rising exponentially is really important to our community,” said Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen.

The hope is for those new emergency orders to roll out in the next few weeks. City leaders are still finalizing them. The university is also testing students who return to campus twice a week.