Public health leaders disagree with possibility of including Champaign County in restrictions

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — New restrictions might come to Champaign County, all because of a new way public health is looking at COVID-19 numbers.

All this week, we’ve been telling you the county’s testing results have been taken out of region 6’s totals. That region goes all the way from Watseka in the north to Olney in the south. IDPH took Champaign County out because they felt it was skewing the numbers, but now region 6’s positivity rate has shot up, and changes could be on the way.

For people living in some parts of Illinois, dining out could soon feel a lot like it did months ago. That’s because region 6 is dangerously close to tighter restrictions as long as Champaign County is excluded in the totals.

“What is happening currently is more than 20% of statewide testing is happening just in Champaign County, and that is obscuring the numbers for region 6,” explained Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Epidemiologist Awais Vaid.

That’s because of the large number of tests being done at the University of Illinois. With Champaign County included, the positivity rate is around three percent. Without, it’s about seven. Three straight days of eight percent or higher would mean big changes.

“The main thing is restaurants and bars in door activities restricted from 50 percent to 25 percent capacity, and then 50 people to 25 will be the gathering lmit,” explained Vaid. Public health leaders feel that shouldn’t affect Champaign County because its numbers aren’t part of that rising total.

“Now, why the state says we want to remove you guys from the numbers which increases the positivity rate, but then for mitigation we want to put you back… minus the numbers… it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Those mitigation efforts could seriously hurt restaurants throughout the region, like The Pantry in Tuscola.

“I don’t know that we can afford to have a large buiding like this and not be able to open it and have people come and eat,” said co-owner Sue Mast.

We reached out to one of Black Dog’s owners as well. They have locations in both Champaign and Urbana. They said they would accept whatever decision public health made in the name of greater public health.

We don’t know when exactly the governor’s office could make their decision about including Champaign County in the mitigation efforts, and we would still have to see three straight days of eight percent positivity before that would happen.

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