Chase Cavanaugh


Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky.  He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer.  Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection.  He is also an avid board gamer.

Chase Cavanaugh

A northern Illinois company is looking into ways to extend the life of N95 masks, especially in the medical domain. 

N95 masks have long been used by doctors, nurses and other health care workers for their ability to protect the wearer against airborne diseases. The masks can filter out 95% of incoming particles, as long as they are properly fitted and maintain a tight seal with the face. But the coronavirus pandemic has demand far outstripping supply, particularly when considering CDC recommendations.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported a spate of new COVID-19 cases Monday. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell made the announcement.

“Over the last three days, there were 225 positive cases reported for Winnebago County," she said. "Our seven-day positivity rate is at 9%.”

"Syringe and Vaccine" by Flickr User NIAID / (CC X 2.0)

While the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, doctors are encouraging residents to catch up on their other immunizations. 

Lisa Gonzalez is Public Health Administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. She said with the current pandemic, it’s just as important to protect yourself against other respiratory diseases, such as influenza.

“We believe that it’s likely that the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at the same time.”

The U.S. Census Bureau is urging Illinois residents to respond before the end of the month.

Sherrie Taylor is a senior research specialist at Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies. She said more than 96% of the people in the state have already sent in a response, but several groups remain elusive.

Chase Cavanaugh

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith announced Thursday that he’s not seeking re-election next year. 

The soon-to-be 77-year-old said age is one factor.

“Given my age, given the fact that we’re in a position where we’re going to continue to make great progress, and given the fact that I know my wife is certainly supportive of this decision that we’ve made, now is the right time,” Smith said. 

He also says he feels confident in the city’s economic position. Smith said the arrival of Facebook and Ferrara will help with future tax revenue.

The Voluntary Action Center, a northern Illinois community service organization, lost its paratransit contract with the City of DeKalb.

The nonprofit normally offers transportation for needy residents, such as the elderly and disabled. But starting next year, the work in DeKalb will go to Transdev, a company that provides and operates buses for the city’s consolidated transport system. VAC Executive Director Ellen Rogers said the financial impact is significant.

Around half the votes cast in the 2020 election are expected to be mail-in ballots.

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic are driving more people to vote early, absentee, or via the postal service. Professor Nate Persily with the Stanford Law School said this level will vary by state, since some have more experience with this system.

“We have never had to transform the American electoral infrastructure in such a significant way in such a short period of time," he said. 


The Winnebago County Health Department reported scores of new cases of COVID-19 at a press conference Monday. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said a lot of the transmission is due to Labor Day weekend activities. The ages of those infected vary.

“And those ages are anywhere from two years to 68," she said. "This brings our total to 4,794 cases.” 

Martell is also worried about an increasing positivity rate.

DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder

The DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder recently fielded questions about the general election at a virtual town hall. 

Dozens of people called in to the online event, which was jointly hosted by the League of Women Voters of DeKalb County and Northern Illinois University’s All In Democracy Challenge. Moderators directed audience questions to DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Doug Johnson.

Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District

Hopkins and Rotary Park in DeKalb will soon have some of their turf grass replaced with native plants for local pollinators.

The Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District is working with the DeKalb Park District to convert nearly 23 acres of land.  Through the fall, they’ll clear the existing grass and vegetation, then plant native seeds in November. Amy Doll with the Park District said that will leave the land somewhat barren for a brief period. 


The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting a preliminary count Friday of 44 new cases of coronavirus and a positivity rate of 6%.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this comes as Illinois is at risk for a surge in cases over the Labor Day weekend. It’s traditionally the last major summer weekend for people to get together. 

Rockford Board of Elections

The Rockford Board of Elections is setting up a secure drop box for mail-in ballots. 

The box will be installed near the corner of 6th Street and 2nd Avenue and available for people to drop off mail-in ballots starting October 1st. Board Executive Director Stacey Bixby said it’s being done in response to the pandemic. She said the Board has received more than 13,000 vote-by-mail applications.

Pixabay user Elionas2

With the death of actor Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer, gastroenterologists are recommending people seriously evaluate their risks of the disease.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis for both men and women in the United States. It’s usually screened via a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. Dr. Sumeet Tewani is a physician with Rockford Gastroenterology Associates. He said certain symptoms and risk factors can lead physicians to recommend an earlier screening.

The Winnebago County Health Department on Monday reported 9 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total case count since the pandemic began up to 4,233.  Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said that it’s important for everyone who’s been exposed to get tested, even if they’re asymptomatic.

“Approximately 22% of our population has sought out testing," she said. "Total tests performed to date in Winnebago County are over 65,000. “

Pixabay user Gerd Altmann

Misinformation about COVID-19 has spread almost as much as the disease itself – and sometimes, faster. Why is this the case? 

When it emerged earlier this year, the world had limited knowledge of the coronavirus and its full effects. Doctors and researchers worked to better understand the disease, but countless rumors also circulated. Peter Adams with the News Literacy Project explained.

Rep. Jeff Keicher

Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher of Sycamore is joining the state's Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security. The body is tasked with examining the impact poverty has on other economic outcomes such as educational attainment and lifetime earnings. Keicher said this is particularly important when COVID-19 is exacerbating poverty. 

“We need to make sure that we’re in a position to give a hand up," he said. "The best way to do that is to have an informed legislature on what those tools can be to best serve helping families in poverty.” 


The social media platform TikTok is gaining popularity across the internet, but also raising privacy and national security concerns.

TikTok is a service that allows users to share videos ranging from a few seconds to a minute with each other. Like many such platforms, it has a dedicated app. But it has one crucial difference. David Gunkel, professor of media studies at Northern Illinois University, explained:

“It was really the first Chinese app to gain international saturation and be adopted worldwide," he said, "and as a result it caught attention of a lot of people.” 

The Winnebago County Health Department on Tuesday reported 17 additional cases of COVID. This brings the county’s total health case count since the pandemic began to four thousand eighty-seven. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martel said unfortunately, that wasn’t the only change.

“Once again we have one additional death to report, and our community mourns the loss of one member," she said. "No matter how small the number, we continue to mourn those losses."

Sarah Jesmer

Some Illinois counties plan to install mail-in drop boxes before the election. Others are still weighing their options. 

DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Doug Johnson said he contacted city and village clerks about installing the boxes, but he said only Sandwich’s official seemed in favor of the idea.

“None of them seemed to think they had the resources or capability," he said. "We weren’t really requiring or looking at them to do anything other than install a box in their office at the village hall or city hall.”

New cases of COVID-19 among staff at the Thomson federal prison have prompted a call for more testing.

As of August 20th, 30 staff members and 18 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos, along with Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, have called for immediate full staff testing in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says Illinois voters should request and submit their mail-in ballots earlier than the state requires.

This comes after he met with the U.S. Postal Service’s 2020 election mail director, Justin Glass. Durbin said Glass gave recommended dates that came sooner than the deadlines in place under state law.

City of Oregon, Illinois

The Ogle County Courthouse in Oregon will have a secure ballot box nearby for residents voting by mail.

County Clerk and Recorder Laura Cook explained.

“The Ogle County voter can come and drop it off instead of going through the Postal Service, " she said, "and they don’t have to come into the courthouse. Because there are a lot of older voters out there that have health concerns.” 

Ballots placed in the drop box will be collected twice daily by election staff. Ballots sent through the mail must be postmarked no later than election day to be accepted.

COVID-19 has caused several football conferences to suspend their fall season. That has significant implications for universities and businesses. 

On August 8th, the Mid-American Conference announced it was suspending fall sports due to the coronavirus. This includes football, which is a major revenue and visitor draw for many universities. Sean Frazier is the Athletic Director at Northern Illinois University. He said the conference’s decision was not taken lightly.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martel said there were no new deaths.

“That brings our total case count to 3,828. As of this day too, over 56,000 tests have been done, representing almost 20% of our population.”

The numbers come as school districts in Winnebago County are preparing to reopen. Several are offering the choice of remote or in-person learning for students.


Restaurants are working to recover after the lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19. We took a look at some of their experiences in DeKalb County. 

Back in March, the lockdown measures put into place by state authorities hit restaurants particularly hard. Closure of nonessential businesses eliminated many indoor dining experiences, as did strict social distancing requirements.

For some restaurants, innovation was essential for survival. Peter Panagakis, an owner of Egg Haven Pancakes and Café in DeKalb, said they needed to go “outside their brand.” 

Pixabay user Steve Buissinne

Local governments are trying to balance how to collect taxes during COVID-19 while also taking into account what can be paid.

For an Illinois county, property taxes are a major source of revenue. They’re also one that county government has the authority to directly collect. Ogle County Treasurer Linda Beck said the money goes to both the county and other parties.

“We do them every 30 days out to the taxing bodies, which mean your schools, your cities, your townships.”

Wikimedia Commons/ User Angelsharum

Weight gain is becoming an increasingly prominent issue as people spend more time indoors due to the pandemic. 

It goes by many names. The "Quarantine 15." "Pandemic pounds." Time in isolation and fewer opportunities for exercise have expanded area waistlines. Audra Wilson is a clinical dietician at Delnor Hospital in Geneva. She said some of this can be attributed to eating more.

Republican State Senator Dave Syverson is co-sponsoring a resolution that encourages the Illinois Congressional Delegation to direct a ComEd federal fine back to the state.

ComEd has to pay $200 million to settle allegations it engaged in long-term bribery in Springfield. Syverson said normally the money would go directly to the federal government.

“There are some allowances that can be made which either Congress or the U.S. Attorney General could step in and direct those payments back to those who were damaged, in this case the ratepayers.”

The Rockford Mass Transit District resumes pre-COVID service levels next week. 

Starting Monday, August 3rd, Rockford residents will once again have access to the full complement of bus routes. The District isn’t collecting fares until a week later. Spokeswoman Lisa Brown said several measures will be in place to address COVID-19.

“All seating areas on our vehicle will be available August 3rd, and all passengers will be required to be seated. We will not have any standing passengers at all at this time.” 

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. This puts the county total at 3,505. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there are no new deaths or sites of concern.

“And the good news is 96% of our residents who have contracted COVID-19 are reported as recovered, ” she said. 

The seven-day rolling positivity rate for Winnebago County is at less than 4%, meaning during that period, more than 95% of coronavirus tests came up negative.