CHAMPAIGN — If recent trends continue, East Central Illinois could soon face additional COVID-19 mitigation measures now that the state is excluding data from Champaign County.
The data is being excluded because the University of Illinois’ massive testing program is overshadowing trends in the region, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said at a virtual news conference held Wednesday.
“We want to ensure that the large volume of tests at Urbana-Champaign does not overshadow the trends that we’re seeing in the broader region, and we don’t want to be inhibited from taking action to keep people safe,” Ezike said. “If regional metrics are tripped in Region 6 by looking at the data in this way, the entire region, including Champaign County, will still be required to implement mitigation efforts.”
Region 6 has a positivity rate of 2.2 percent, but without Champaign County, it’s at 7.1 percent, up from 6.2 percent in mid-September.
The region, which stretches from Iroquois to Fayette counties, faces additional mitigations if it has three consecutive days with its seven-day average positivity rate at or above 8 percent.
That could include closing bars and restaurants at 11 p.m., no indoor dining and limiting meetings to 25 people.
Awais Vaid, deputy administrator at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said “we don’t completely agree” with the move to exclude Champaign County data, “but we definitely understand their dilemma.”
“What we have in our community due in large part to the university testing is unprecedented and a model for communities everywhere,” he said.
While the state is excluding Champaign County data because of the UI, Vaid said the health district has “never viewed campus as separate from the community. Most of the faculty, staff and graduate students are yearlong residents of our community, and even the undergraduates spend (the) majority of their time during the year in our community and contribute extensively.”
The UI tests nearly 10,000 people a day and sometimes accounts for about 20 percent of all tests done in the state.
So far, the University of Illinois has detected 2,479 cases on campus from more than 400,000 tests.
“We have not noticed any spread from the campus community to the general population or vice versa,” Vaid said.