CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Village and City leaders around the county are discussing the proposed creation of a “COVID-19 Health Innovation Region.”

In a letter from leaders around Champaign County to Governor Pritzker, they said the recent announcement of Region 6 possibly going back to Phase 3 was, “troubling and disappointing to everyone in our community.”

Champaign County stands out in our state and in our nation as an exemplar for the way communities can responsibly and innovatively navigate the challenges of the pandemic. Following diligently the guidance of Restore Illinois, we have established ourselves as the state’s testbed for breakthrough innovations and bold community partnership initiatives for the mitigation and containment of the pandemic.

With a laser-sharp focus on the health and wellness of our community, our ultimate goal is to provide our state and our nation the innovation and guidance necessary for the expeditious, safety-first restoration of our lives and the economy.

Officials continued to say the county’s success is based on the governor’s decision whether to designate Champaign County as a separate “COVID-19 Health Innovation Region.” They said the region would be subjected to the same monitoring and enforcement criteria as the rest of the state.

They stated they understand the volume of testing in the county through the University of Illinois’ saliva-based testing and additional free testing for all county residents overshadows the rest of Region 6. “And we agree without reservation that those surrounding counties need to have an accurate and real-time accounting of the prevalence of the infection in their communities in order to take any necessary steps to protect their residents.”

Because of the volume of testing, contact tracing and other measures, officials said Champaign is one of the safest regions in the state. They also listed other restrictions such as at restaurants and bars, guidance for faith-based organizations and keeping stricter lockdowns at long-term care facilities and nursing homes. “We also have worked together to recommend testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, as well as anyone travelling out of state, which is above and beyond the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and IDPH guidance.”

The officials also mentioned the county’s daily and 7-day positivity rates have fallen below 1.2% while discussing the expansion on returning to normal activities and restarting the local economy. They stated this happened all while 35,000 University of Illinois students made their way back to campus for the start of the semester.

“To our knowledge, there is no other county in the nation that can make that claim. And the model we are pioneering is designed to be quickly reproducible, scalable and deployable,” they said. “The pilot program we are creating here in Champaign County can be the model for cities and counties across the entire state, the country and the world. But forcing us backward along with the rest of Region 6 would immediately and decisively end that momentum of innovation and deprive Illinois of a change that no other state has.”

The world has been watching what we have been doing in Champaign County. And we have given the world something that is very, very rare these days.

We have given the world reason for hope.

The leaders said naming Champaign County a separate region would give the governor’s Restore Illinois plan another reason for hope.