DeKalb County

Local businesses have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Seventeen percent of U.S. restaurants have closed due to COVID-19. They’ve swung from closed, to open with restrictions, to closed again -- and some have operated in spite of mitigation rules, potentially putting customers and employees at risk for the virus. 

Pixabay user qimono

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected incidences of substance abuse, and how people struggling with addiction are treated. 

Social distancing and isolation have become everyday features of the pandemic. These stresses, along with factors like job loss, have resulted in more instances of substance abuse. That’s according to Northwestern Medicine Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marissa Kirch. She said more people are drinking greater amounts of alcohol, or taking up the habit if they haven’t before.

DeKalb County Health Department

DeKalb County is making some progress on vaccinations.

As of Thursday evening, the Health Department reports they’ve given out vaccines to at least 2,700 people in phases 1A and 1B. That first category consists of health care workers and long-term care residents. Public Health Administrator Lisa Gonzalez said they’re not quite finished with that group.

The annual tally of people who are homeless in the Rockford region is going to be more challenging this year. That’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 



Rockford city officials and partner agencies are gearing up for the "point-in-time count." The survey of people experiencing homelessness takes place once a year over a 24-hour period. The PIT covers Winnebago, Boone and DeKalb counties.

Angie Walker is a housing advocate with the City of Rockford. She says the coronavirus adds a level of difficulty. 

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?

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.”  


The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday reported 2,120 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 20 additional confirmed deaths. A DeKalb County infant is among the reported deaths in the most recent numbers from the state health department.

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.

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.

League Of Women Voters Recharges In DeKalb County

Aug 25, 2020

The League of Women Voters is becoming more active in DeKalb County.

The DeKalb County branch of the League was founded about 100 years ago as a nonpartisan organization.

Dr. Linh Nguyen is the President of the local branch.

She says that with an upcoming election, it is more important than ever to vote.

“We want people to have the desire, the right, the knowledge, and the confidence to participate in local government.”

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.”

DeKalb-Area Restaurants Adapting To COVID-19

Aug 12, 2020

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.” 

Jenna Dooley


Some DeKalb residents want the city’s Mayor Jerry Smith to be more specific on plans to address police brutality.  


The mayor spoke at a town hall Thursday night at Hopkins Park. The gathering was a forum on reforms related to justice and equality. Smith expressed support for its aims, but said he couldn’t talk details at the forum. 



The DeKalb County Health Department has identified two additional positive cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in DeKalb County. One adult in their 20’s and another adult in their 50’s.

To maintain patient privacy and confidentiality, the Health Department will not provide additional identifying information, such as specific area of residence, as this would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). DCHD’s Communicable Disease staff are monitoring the patients and in communication with close contacts.

COVID-19 Case Reported In DeKalb County

Mar 21, 2020

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Sunday, March 15 announced 168 new cases of coronavirus disease in Illinois, including another death; a Cook County man in his 70s.

DeKalb County is now also reporting a case. The DeKalb County Health Department says the person is in their 40s.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 753 cases in 26 counties in Illinois (percentage of case by county below). Cases have occurred in ages 3 to 99.

Unknown jurisdiction (at this time) ˂ 1%

Chase Cavanaugh

A new state law makes it easier for child advocacy centers to record forensic interviews. 

This is where victims of potential child maltreatment are given the chance to speak about their experiences in a nonthreatening environment. DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato said they're an essential part of the investigation process.

Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments

Dec 10, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

This project is done in collaboration with The Northern Star. You can read their reporting on a new solar farm at Suburban Apartments and Estates here. You can also hear about how this collaboration came to be here



Waterman is a railroad town. It began as a railroad station. It was named after a railroad employee. It still sees several freight trains pass through each day. But it also has its own unique railroad: The Waterman & Western.

Located in Waterman’s Lions Community Park, The Waterman & Western (also known as The Waterman Train, The Holiday Train, or simply Pete’s Train) has been bringing joy to visitors for 25 years. It is the brainchild of railroad enthusiast Pete Robinson, who knew from the age of five that he would someday run his own train.

Rep. Keicher To Host Property Tax Seminar

Aug 16, 2019
Simon Cunningham, licensed under CC BY 2.0 /

Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher wants residents to learn more about their property taxes.

The event is designed to educate residents about how local governments value their property, and in turn, how much is due in taxes. Keicher says it will also detail how residents can appeal the amount if they feel it’s inaccurate.


This is not your father’s baseball; it’s your great-great grandfather’s base ball. For our first episode of Curiosity in the Corn, we venture into the fields of southern DeKalb County to the town of Somonauk, where base ball enthusiasts play the game as it was played in 1858. No gloves, no fast pitch, no swearing (but the occasional drink is allowed). Join hosts Clint Cargile and Connie Kuntz as they explore Vintage Base Ball. Learn the rules, meet the players, find out why they love this game so much.

The DeKalb County Coroner's Office has identified the body found in a Genoa field. 

Joseph Maynard was reported missing back in March. Sheriff's deputies found his body late last week about half a mile from his home on Daniels Drive after the Sheriff's Office received a call from a farmer reporting the body.

An autopsy on Monday revealed the cause of death was exposure.  There were no visible signs of bodily injury. There is no suspicion of foul play. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Republican Jeff Keicher is the freshman Representative for the State's 70th House District, which includes parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone counties. He sat down in the WNIJ studios to discuss the end of the recent legislative session.

He said quite a lot was accomplished, considering the position his party was in.

A Genoa man arrested for possession of explosives has been released. Joseph D. Walsh is charged with three counts of unlawful use of weapons.

According to court documents, Walsh said in an interview after his release that a friend had given him homemade fireworks, which were made with what he thought was black powder.

Walsh was arrested on Monday night after Genoa police conducted a vehicle search of his 1995 Subaru and found an explosive device in the glovebox.

Jenna Dooley

The DeKalb County History Center opens this weekend. It's also the unveiling of a traveling Smithsonian exhibit. 

The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit, "Crossroads: Change in Rural America," will be on display May 11-June 22, 2019.

Michelle Donahoe is the Executive Director of the Center. She says it's an opportunity to connect DeKalb County's roots in rural America.

Longtime Activist Minister Joins DeKalb County Board

Dec 21, 2018
Photo by Peter Medlin

In the summer of 2017, Rev. Linda Slabon and her partner both retired. Slabon was a Unitarian Universalist minister and social worker, while her partner was a professor at Northern Illinois University.


Like many retirees, Slabon used her newfound free time to do more gardening. They threw a Disney Frozen-themed birthday party for their granddaughter.


Susan Stephens / WNIJ

25% of Illinois’ electricity is supposed to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025, under the Future Energy Jobs Act – and that’s going to require a big increase in wind farms across the state. But one northern Illinois county made it much tougher for the wind industry to expand Wednesday night.

DeKalb School District Unveils Diversity Plan

Nov 1, 2018

A public forum was held last week at DeKalb High School to officially unveil District 428’s Diversity Plan.

The seven part plan has been in the works for at least a decade. It was recently approved by the school board.

Amy Crook is the district’s bilingual programs coordinator. She says that student feedback after a tense episode following a black history month assembly at the high school in 2016 sped up the plan’s construction.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Illinois is only seven years away from its deadline for getting 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources. Wind power will have to play a big part to reach that ambitious goal. The state ranks 6th in the nation for the number of wind turbines, at more than 2,600. These wind farms are generally located in rural areas, many on active farms where people are raising corn and soybeans. The wind becomes a third crop that can be “harvested” year-round, giving the farmer a steady rental income.

What Is Feeding The Grid?

Sep 17, 2018
Carl Nelson/Spencer Tritt

Wind, solar, and nuclear are some of the energy options available to Illinois consumers. This week on Morning Edition, the WNIJ news team explores how these affect the quality of life in northern Illinois in 2018 and beyond.

Wind: The "Third Crop"

Wind is sometimes called the "third crop" by farmers.

Reporter Susan Stephens has been following the development of wind farms in northern Illinois. She says the term is used because so often the turbines are placed on farms.

How Can Communities Give 'Trauma Informed' Care?

Jul 18, 2018

An emerging health care approach factors in the lasting effects of trauma.

In 2016, the Winnebago County Health Department asked the community about top health concerns so it could put together a Community Health Improvement Plan. Several issues made it to the top of the list.

Cynthia Hall is the Department’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. 

“And they told us three things," she explained. "Mental health was one of them. Maternal and child health was another, and violence was the third.”