470 New COVID Cases, Two Deaths In Winnebago County

Nov 2, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department Monday announced 470 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths from the virus. This puts the total number of cases at 11,472. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said it was imperative for residents not to ignore mitigation restrictions.

"With a positivity rate of almost 15%, you’re putting your community at risk. You’re putting all of our businesses at risk. And we’ve talked about this before. You’re putting our children and the schools at risk."

Water Your Trees Before The Next Freeze

Nov 2, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Eastern white pine trees are a fast growing, long-lived species. They’re native to northern Illinois, but you’ll find them throughout the state. And even though they are “evergreen,” they do go through changes in the fall.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Protests continue in Rockford since the death of George Floyd. Officeholders and activists are looking for pathways to improve police and community relations.

“I feel great. I think I've never been more optimistic about the work that the City's doing to build relationships,” said Rockford’s Mayor Tom McNamara. “Improve our community and the quality of life of our citizens.”

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A new sculpture along the banks of the Rock River is a celebration of the centennial of women gaining the right to vote – and of the women who are carrying that right forward.

Every year, tens of thousands of Illinois college students who qualify and apply for a Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant receive nothing. The need-based aid is "first come, first-served" and the state runs out of money well short of meeting the demand.

Photo provided by Cheryl Sheinman.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Cheryl Sheinman. 

Sheinman is a teacher and dialogue facilitator. Being a graduate of Jungian and archetypal psychology, she writes about bringing consciousness to our social landscape via pieces on voice, justice, trauma, death and dying, gun violence and authentic dialogue. 

Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

It has been said that “Music can soothe the savage beast.” But sometimes music can be used to heighten the fright. A Chicago violinist is using her instrument to celebrate Halloween during the 18th episode of her free virtual weekly show.  

Rachel Barton Pine started doing "Family Fridays with RBP" when the pandemic hit. She said she thought it would be nice to do something for the entire family.  

Some Health Officials Find Their Hands Tied On COVID-19 Restrictions

Oct 30, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Sandra Martell is in a tough spot. As public health administrator in northern Illinois’ Winnebago County, Martell was threatened with lawsuits from several area bar owners after she included them on a list of businesses allegedly defying the governor’s orders to halt indoor dining.

The county is part of a region that faced tougher restrictions this month after the rate of positive COVID-19 tests rose above 8%.

DePaul University

This week, an election-focused episode with Dr. Christina Rivers, associate professor of political science at DePaul University. She studies voting rights, African American politics and she’s taught several inside-out classes at the Stateville Correctional Center with students on the inside and DePaul students.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

There are conflicting reports about the shooting of a Black man by a police officer earlier this month in Rockford.

Nenye Uche is the lawyer representing the man who was shot, Tyris Jones. Uche held a news conference in front of City Hall calling for increased transparency from the Winnebago-Boone County Integrity Task Force. The group is investigating the shooting by Rockford Police officer Dominik McNiece.

Outdoor art is blooming in a northern Illinois city. Two new permanent sculptures will be installed at Freeport’s Arts Plaza.

The civic art space is currently under construction. Jessica Modica, the arts plaza director for the Freeport Art Museum, said the city needed an updated outdoor art space. 

Join host Peter Medlin for a discussion on how different school re-opening plans are playing out throughout northern Illinois. Hear from parents and teachers about the challenges of incorporating different learning options during the COVID-19 pandemic.



To Avoid Hitting A Deer, Look For 'Eyeshine'

Oct 28, 2020
Connie Kuntz

It's deer mating season. It's also deer hunting season and the fall harvest. That means deer are out and about. They're looking for love, safety and food -- especially at dusk and dawn.

STEM Café Explores The Science Behind Haunted Houses

Oct 28, 2020
Northern Illinois University

This year, Northern Illinois University is hosting a series of virtual STEM cafes. One of them, "The Psychology of Haunted Houses" will break down what it takes for "a good scare." 

Taking on this task are collaborators Paul Kassel, dean of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Jim Langley, scene and lighting designer and retired theater professor. The two will focus on chemistry, lighting technology and the brain to explain how to make haunted houses more effective.

NIU STEMFest Virtual This Year

Oct 28, 2020
Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University’s STEMFest celebrates the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The annual event usually draws large crowds to the NIU Convocation Center. Not the 2020 edition. 

This year, STEMFest will culminate with a virtual celebration on October 31st from 10am to 2pm. 

STEMFest organizer Dr. Kristin Brynteson noted that the online platform allows visitors to customize their STEM experience.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Rockford bus drivers are calling on city leaders to dramatically overhaul safety precautions and reinstate hazard pay.  


Jodi Williams is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1333. She went to Rockford’s City Hall to call for an overhaul of existing safety precautions for city buses. Williams is asking the City for a return to rear-door boarding and a limit on the number of bus passengers.

She also wants the City to install higher quality air filters and to massively improve the degree of cleaning on the buses.

Pixabay user ArtsyBeeKids

A Northern Illinois University professor says presidential political polls are likely to be more accurate this year than in 2016. 

Political Science professor April Clark said there were several complicating factors in 2016. These included a greater percentage of nonpartisan voters to consider and the timing of their votes.

“In 2016, we had a large percentage of late deciders that broke for Trump, but we don’t have that same pool of undecideds that can break for him," she said. "So the chances of him turning this around are diminishing.” 

343 New COVID-19 Cases In Winnebago County

Oct 26, 2020

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 343 new cases of coronavirus from over the weekend on Monday. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this means there have now been more than 10,000 cases total.

“Our rolling 7-day positivity rate is 13.5%, well above the 6.5% that we need to get ourself out of mitigation.”

Seven residents also lost their lives to the disease since last week. Officials from local health care providers say they have seen many more people coming in for tests, and are working to increase patient capacity as cases mount.

A civil rights expert shared his perspective with DeKalb community members on belonging. This happened Thursday evening during a Zoom conversation.

The conversation was presented by Northern Illinois University and the City of DeKalb. 

Flickr user Images Money / "Tax" (CC BY 2.0)

A Northern Illinois University professor says a graduated income tax wouldn’t have much of an effect on many Illinois residents. 

Dr. Kurt Thurmaier is the chair of NIU’s Department of Public Administration. He says most people would pay a rate of around 4.9% of their net income.

“If you have that much money left over, you have $60,000 left over, you’re good. You have the same tax. There’s no change. But if you have the same equivalent of four to six households after all your expenses, you’re going to pay higher tax.”

Jesse Kuntz

Two northern Illinois poets Saturday were appointed to positions new to the city of Rockford. Jocelyn Kuntz  was awarded youth poet laureate and Christine Swanberg poet laureate, in an inaugural event held at the Rockford Public Library’s Nordlof Center.  


Swanberg is an award-winning poet who has more than 500 published works. She encouraged the other finalists.

Connie Kuntz

Rockford could have a new multi-use path connecting the city's west and east sides by the fall of 2022. City of Rockford Traffic Engineer Jeremy Carter says the new path would take up 2.7 miles, much of it along Highcrest Road. 

"It would start over by Jacoby Place on Spring Creek Road, continue east along Spring Creek and connect with an existing project that we're in design for which is bringing a sidewalk down Parkview," he said. "The multi-use path would continue east to head up Highcrest Road on the south side of the road all the way over to Alpine Road."

Provided by Quentin Johnson.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. Today's poem is by Aurora Deputy Poet Laureate, Quentin Johnson. 

Johnson was born in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to missionary parents. He grew up in the Midwest, living in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan. He has lived most of his life in Illinois, having resided in Metropolis, Ashkum, Oak Park and Aurora.

Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson criticized how the state is implementing its new COVID-19 mitigation measures on region 1 for the Reopen Illinois plan.

He said they focus too strongly on closing restaurants and bars, while ignoring COVID cases in other businesses. 

“Amazon came out and said they had 19,000 employees with COVID. And yet the State says, well, you know, the State says, ‘Well, you know, some of those companies are just too big for us to have any control over.’ So then why are you going after small restaurants that are doing everything right?” 


Students in the Proviso School District are still learning remotely as COVID-19 case rates go up across Illinois. But their teachers are now working inside the district’s school buildings, despite safety concerns and the Teachers’ Union filing of an Unfair Labor Practice & Grievance against the district.


Almost 300 Proviso teachers have been back for a week now. Maggie Riley -- she’s the president of the Proviso Teachers’ Union -- said the conditions are exactly what they were worried about. 


Photo provided by Richard Raether.

North American theater tickets sales have fallen 84% compared to the same period in 2019. That’s according to a September report by the international group TRG Arts. Despite the drop, a northern Illinois playhouse found a way to adapt during its COVID-19 financial drought.

Rockford’s Artists’ Ensemble Theater is launching a new podcast.


$15,000 Grant Split Between Miss Carly's And Carpenter's Place

Oct 22, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Money is on the way to two Rockford homeless assistance shelters.


The Rock Valley Credit Union split a $15,000 dollar grant between Miss Carly’s and Carpenter’s Place. Carly Rice, the founder of Miss Carly’s, said the funds will go a long way. 


"That is that's a lot of people to feed," she said. "Yeah. I mean, we're between 800 and 1000 people a day. So this was a huge help."

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are announcing additional COVID-19 mitigation efforts that will be implemented in Region 1 beginning on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. According to a news release issued Thursday afternoon, after mitigation efforts initially took effect in Region 1 on Oct. 3, the positivity rate has remained the highest in the state, with the region reporting an 11.9% rolling positivity rate today, Oct. 22.

Spectators can’t go to haunted houses in Illinois due to COVID-19 this year but some people can still satisfy their thrill of the creepy. A northern Illinois venue is offering a different type of fright.

The Freeport Masonic Temple is having a ghost hunt on Halloween. Bill Leser is a member and said they started doing these types of investigations in December of last year.

Winnebago High School Athletics

The Winnebago High School girls cross country team ran away with the 1A state title last year. At times, they’ve been even faster this year, but they won’t have a shot at back-to-back titles.

That’s because the IHSA canceled the state championship meets due to the pandemic. Joe and Janet Erb are married co-coaches of the boys and girls cross country teams.