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.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccination is proceeding smoothly. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said among the different health care systems, more than 10,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. During a COVID-19 update livestreamed on WREX, Martell announced 104 new cases.

"And unfortunately, we have lost two additional of our community residents, which brings our total death count to 380," she said.

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois underlined Wednesday his decision to vote for impeachment against President Donald Trump. He said the January 6 attack on the Capitol was the culmination of years of misinformation and admitted he was unsure who else in the GOP would vote for the measure. 

“If there was not a sense of fear among many of my friends out here about political ramifications, there would be a lot more," he said in a call with reporters on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, I think this is a vote that doesn’t need politics, but unfortunately, is infected by it.”

Kishwaukee Hospital

Area health care providers like Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb are currently vaccinating their health care workers. Reporter Chase Cavanaugh spoke with Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Bob Manam. 

Cavanaugh: With doses of vaccine now available in the hands of hospitals like Kish, what are you seeing on the ground in terms of vaccine rollout and distribution?

A new state law will limit the amount some insurance plans charge for prescription insulin.

Pixabay user GWizUk

Freezing pipes are a potential problem as Illinois enters the winter months and residents leave for the holidays.

The freezing water can expand and cause catastrophic damage to a plumbing system if precautions aren’t taken. Bryan Faivre is the director of utilities and transportation for the City of DeKalb. He said when people turn the heat down when leaving for vacation, it’s important to keep in mind what areas are getting that heat.

Pixabay user bluartpapelaria

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is reminding residents to take care when disposing Christmas lights. 

James Jennings is the manager of the waste reduction and compliance section. He said they are recyclable but shouldn’t be put in a regular curbside bin. That’s because in a regular recycling stream they could gum up the works.

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

A new state law taking effect in January will make it easier for police to connect unidentified bodies to missing persons cases.

Pixabay user spennucci

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office is advising residents to be cautious about holiday decorations.

Public Information Officer JC Fultz said it’s important to make sure Christmas trees don’t get too dry.

“A lot of times, these trees, it’s not unusual for them to drink up to two gallons of water the first day it’s in the stand and continue to check the water levels daily," he said. "We don’t want them to dry out. That then becomes kindling and a fuel source inside the home."


Illinois highways rank 37th in overall performance and cost effectiveness according to a recent study by the Reason Foundation.

The study, based on 2018 data, says Illinois had a relatively low level of traffic fatalities, particularly in rural areas. It was also relatively cost effective in terms of administrative spending per mile of road. But study author Baruch Feigenbaum said there is room to improve.

Illinois State Police

The Illinois State Police is reminding residents to be careful as they travel during the holiday season, particularly in case of inclement weather.

Trooper Elizabeth Clausing said preparation can go a long way.

“Check your vehicle tires. Make sure you have necessary emergency equipment if you have a flat tire or your vehicle breaks down, and always allow yourself some extra time to do that preparation before you hit the road.”

She also said preparing an inclement weather kit is a good idea. 

DeKalb County saw record levels of investment and development in 2020.

That’s according to the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. Executive Director Paul Borek highlighted this at a “State of the County” event on Thursday.

“DeKalb County attracted nearly $975 million of capital investment in 2020. Nearly a billion dollars.”  

Winnebago County saw two deaths and 160 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday. But with the first shipments of vaccines in local hospitals, officials are cautiously optimistic.

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there’s been a decrease in positivity rates, hospitalizations and no spike related to Thanksgiving cases. She said this could help in scaling back mitigation measures. But she cautioned that the public needed to remain vigilant.

Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs

Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher expressed strong frustration Wednesday at the Pritzker administration’s handling of a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.

During a Veterans Affairs' Committee hearing, he chastised both the timing of the response and a lack of taking responsibility.

“So my question is, when is somebody going to stand up and own that we made a mistake, own what those mistakes were, and right the ship going forward?” 

Girl Scouts of the USA

Girl Scout cookie orders have gone online as a result of the prolonged pandemic.

The organization had already developed the “Digital Cookie” platform to place orders over the internet, but it’s seen much greater use since the pandemic put a halt to “booth sales” in public. 

Ann-Marie Soderstrom is the communications manager for Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois. She said Digital Cookie has also allowed girls to develop their tech experience and help troops get their message across better.

Susan Stephens

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees approved several major fiscal measures at its latest meeting Thursday. 

First, they approved a fiscal year 2022 budget request of $98.9 million. This is compared to $93.6 million last fiscal year. They also approved several cost changes for students. Chief among them is a new 80 cent per credit hour fee for culture and diversity programming. President Lisa Freeman said the money will help attract “high value” speakers that a lone student organization couldn’t bring in on its own.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported four new coronavirus deaths Monday. This brings the total up to 296 area casualties. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell also reported new cases in the area.

“We’re reporting 121 new cases," she said. "Our total case count is 20,043.”  

Winnebago County is one of 50 counties in the state with the highest death rate from COVID-19. Current plans would prioritize the first round of vaccines to these counties. Local health departments are responsible for these initial allocations.

Illinois State Fire Marshal

The Illinois State Fire Marshal is participating in the Keep the Wreath Red Campaign this holiday season.

Public Information Officer JC Fultz said it involves hanging wreaths at their office in Springfield and at the Quinn Fire Academy in Chicago.

“This campaign actually began in Illinois in Naperville in 1954 as a way to raise that fire safety awareness. So the wreath is lit with all red bulbs, and when there is a fire-related fatality in the state, we will change one of those bulbs to a white lightbulb.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said Congress needs to pass a COVID-19 emergency relief package now. He said the legislation is substantial and includes funds to support various measures. 

“We have a $908 billion program that can make a significant difference in the lives of many Americans and save many American businesses that are teetering on the brink of failure and bankruptcy.”

But Durbin said passage of such a bill remains uncertain.

City of DeKalb

DeKalb’s mayor and the president of Northern Illinois University emphasized cooperation and economic development at a State of the City event Thursday.

Mayor Jerry Smith touted several successes, such as the arrival of Facebook and the Ferrara Candy Company to DeKalb. He also highlighted a joint effort with the University to help small businesses cope with COVID-19.

“From the get-go, a group got together to see what could be done to help these businesses, and DeKalb County UNITES was born.”

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday.

This brings the total number of cases in Winnebago County to 18,804. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell also said there were seven new deaths.

“We must remember that as we go through all of this and we look optimistically to the vaccine, that it’s through this pandemic we have lost a significant number of our residents,” she said. 

Open enrollment for health insurance via the federal marketplace is underway.

The marketplace was created by the Affordable Care Act as a resource for those seeking insurance. It also helps them determine whether they’re eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for that coverage. Derryl Block is Dean of Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences. She said some people are worried about the current Supreme Court case challenging the ACA.

14th District Congressional GOP Candidate Jim Oberweis is seeking what's called a "discovery" recount in his race against Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood.

This would have election authorities examine up to 25% of precincts to determine if votes would have gone a different way. Campaign spokesman Travis Akin explained.

“If you are within 5%, you have the opportunity legally to ask for a discovery recount," said Akin. "We will be paying for some of those precincts with funds that we’ve raised for this express purpose.”

City of Rockford

The mayor of Rockford is seeking reelection in 2021.

Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement this week, touting successes such as growth downtown, in the health care industry, and at Chicago Rockford International Airport. A central campaign message is his desire to make further improvements in those areas.

“We have had great progress these last four years and we want to build on that progress," he said. "We know there is so much more work to be done.”

The Winnebago County Health Department Thursday announced seven new deaths in the county from COVID-19. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there has also been a significant increase in cases throughout the region.

“We’re reporting new cases of 234, our total case count throughout the pandemic is 15,719.”

Martell and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said there is going to be a significant step-up in enforcement against businesses that violate mitigation rules. Some measures include daily ticketing, closures and ineligibility for business relief grants.

The Illinois Municipal League wants the State to form a working group of mayors and other local officials to better coordinate coronavirus response. 

The League says local leaders are being asked to enforce coronavirus measures without necessarily having enough assistance from state government to back their authority. IML Executive Director Brad Cole said on their own, these officials may have difficulty addressing violations from residents and businesses.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University researcher is working on a less uncomfortable way to test for COVID-19. 

The standard test for COVID-19 involves shoving a long swab deep up a patient’s nose and analyzing the resulting sample. Chemistry Professor Beth Gailliard’s method would instead have a patient gargle a bottle of water and spit it back into a tube. NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said the test is still in development, but could make the testing process less unpleasant. 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University will be offering free COVID testing Monday through Wednesday to students, employees, and the community. 

NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said it’s particularly timely with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the announcement Wednesday that Bustos would co-chair the party’s Steering and Policy Committee. This group has a role in determining where Democrats are assigned on other House committees, and they advise party leaders on policy. Bustos said the northwestern Illinois area she represents can provide additional perspective.

“Certainly, I would be the only Midwesterner sitting around that leadership table from a district that Donald Trump has won -- not just one cycle -- but he also won our Congressional district just a week ago.” 

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

Many races in Illinois won’t see results until next Tuesday. 

Winnebago County received many more mail-in ballots than previous years due to the coronavirus. The backlog of ballots is keeping election authorities busy trying to clear it. Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow said it’s important to not fall for fake reports since final election results aren’t out yet. 

Steve Johnson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Several Sycamore residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the City claiming a polluted local water supply. 

The suit alleges the City neglected an aging local water system. In turn, that allegedly led to toxic metals, such as lead leeching into the water supply, along with the proliferation of bacteria. Attorney Mark Vasquez said these cases can take a while to litigate. That’s due to factors such as when the court decides to rule on it.