COVID-19 Informational Hub

WNIJ News and NPR is committed to connecting you with the latest news related to COVID-19 in northern Illinois and across the country. We are taking precautions to keep staff safe while providing you with the resources you need. Thank you for your continued support which allows us to remain your trusted source on the coronavirus pandemic. 

Spencer Tritt

As the pandemic began to surge, schools closed and most students switched to online learning almost overnight. Schools with less access to technology relied on paper packets, especially for elementary students.

It was more like crisis teaching, like building the plane as you’re flying it. That’s how Lindsay Zelly described sudden changeover. She’s the director of professional learning at the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance. They provide professional development and online resources to teachers.

Pixabay

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.” 

Spencer Tritt

Many students are returning to class this month, some in person and some digitally.

Those in education wonder about the long-term academic and emotional impacts of COVID-19.

Schools are used to dealing with the “summer slide,” where students forget a bit of what they learned over summer vacation. But those losses will be more profound this year.

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.”

University of Illinois

  The Illinois economy has been contracting since the onset of COVID-19. But the latest University of Illinois Flash Index shows economic activity is beginning to recover.

The Flash Index rose from 93.1 in June to 93.9 in July, for its second month of improvement since the coronavirus sent it plummeting. The Flash Index is based on an analysis of state tax revenues.

University of Illinois economist Fred Giertz says the higher Flash Index number reflects a rise in sales tax revenue since spring.

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.

Illinois Board of Higher Education

Black and Latinx college students in Illinois aren’t as successful as their white peers. That’s according to a new state report.

Ginger Ostro is the executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Her message on the results of the equity report was clear.

“In nearly every measure, we are failing our African American students,” she said

The report says there are significant disparities in everything from enrollment, retention and completion to post-college earnings.

The Psychology Behind Wearing Masks

Aug 5, 2020

The CDC recommends wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Still, some people remain averse to wearing them.

It comes down to free will.

That’s according to Brad Sagarin, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University.

LISTEN: Sagarin talks more about mask wearing on The 21st.

Discovery Center Museum

The Discovery Center is a hands-on children's science museum in Rockford. It's adjusting its times and polices to meet the needs of its guests and public health requirements. 

Ann Marie Walker is the marketing director for the museum. She said the requirements for guests still include face masks for everyone age six and older, temperature and wellness checks, and social distancing. The biggest thing, she said, is that people need to reserve time online for the play sessions.

Spencer Tritt

Only weeks from the first day of school, some districts are reversing course and choosing not to have any in-person instruction right away.

Several teachers’ unions are calling on their schools to start the year virtually. Educators in Elmhurst are opposing their district’s back-to-school plan.

Max Schoenberg is the president of the Elmhurst Teachers’ Council. He says Elmhurst District 205’s plan would bring hundreds of students back into its buildings.

Nearly 4,000 people who were tested for COVID-19 at some northern Illinois state-run testing sites are experiencing processing delays. Dr. Sandra Martell is the public health administrator for the Winnebago County Health Department. She said if you were tested between July 12-24 and have not received notification of your results, you may not need to test again.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/255689942351896/

The Freeport Masonic Temple is looking to renovate its nearly century-old building but it needs assistance.

Bill Leser is the chairperson of the fundraising committee for the temple. He said last year’s winter was not kind to the building, specifically, the top.

“We've actually got five roofs here. The worst one is the auditorium, which has to be fixed now," he explained. "So that's scheduled to be repaired by Labor Day.”

Wikipedia Commons

Randall Jeffay was one of the millions of Americans laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He needed work, but he’s also at high-risk. 

“I’m 61 years old,” he said. “I’m actually a renal transplant recipient, so I have a suppressed immune system.” 

Going out in public or to an office was out of the question. But then he stumbled onto an article about Illinois community colleges offering courses to become a contact tracer from home.

Peter Medlin

Rockford Public Schools just became the latest district to release a plan for reopening.

No matter the grade level, parents can choose full-time remote learning.

But in-person will look different depending on a student’s age.

The elementary school option will be all day, five days a week.

Heidi Dettman is the executive director of academics.

“The biggest reason is because of how critical their time with their teachers is at this developmental stage,” said Dettman.

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.” 

4-H Shows Moo-ve Online During The Pandemic

Jul 28, 2020
courtesy of Becky Gocken

A lot of events and activities have been canceled the last few months because of COVID-19. But Illinois 4-H is keeping kids busy. Their shows are still happening this year even though judges can't see the livestock, taste the pies or watch the presentations in person. 

A typical 4-H livestock show happens at the county fair, where the kids are able to present their animals live in front of judges. But this year is anything but typical. Like every organization, 4-H has had to adjust how they do things. 

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.

Public Health Educator Weighs In On School Reopening

Jul 24, 2020
Spencer Tritt

The Illinois Federation of Teachers recently urged higher-ed and K-12 schools to start their semesters completely online. Many schools are releasing reopening protocols to return partially in-person during the pandemic.

Beth Squires is a professor at Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

She said, to open in-person, schools must first be able to guarantee that students wear a mask, keep at least six feet apart and wash their hands regularly.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, host Peter Medlin sat down digitally with Ayla Peczkowski. She taught English & Special Ed at the Roosevelt Community Education Center in Rockford. Now she’s going to be in an administrative role at East High School, also in Rockford.

They talked about Ayla’s mixed feelings about schools reopening, teaching her students about news literacy during the pandemic and much more.

This episode goes in depth on what goes into a reopening plan. And there’s a story highlighting the struggles international students have faced during COVID-19.

Spencer Tritt

It’s just less than a month before the first day of school, and DeKalb is releasing their plans to reopen amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Students returning will see a different kind of classroom from what they left in March when schools shut down.

Schools are enforcing health and safety guidelines to try and limit the spread of coronavirus. Students will be required to wear masks. Classrooms will be reoriented to account for social distancing.

DeKalb’s plan uses a hybrid in-person and online format.

The Winnebago County Health Department Monday reported 53 new cases of COVID-19. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this puts the total number of cases at 3,345.

“The positivity rate over our 7-day rolling average is at 2.6%, so well below the 8% we’re looking at if we have to roll back.

No new deaths were reported, but the county is putting Wesley Willows, an assisted living facility in Rockford, back on a list of sites of concern.

Pages