Just a few weeks ago, the number of Rantoul’s confirmed COVID-19 cases hovered around four. Then the escalator started.

On Friday, the number stands at 99, most of them from Rantoul Foods Pork plant workers who have contracted the virus.

Rantoul’s numbers climbed by five for the day.

Countywide the number grew by 23, to 356.

Of those, 179 are considered recovered and 170 active. The number of hospitalized residents remain at three.

Residents of Champaign’s 61820 ZIP code accounted for nine of the 23 new cases, pushing its total to 56.

Champaign’s 61821 zip code also recorded five new cases for 53 total.

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FREE TESTING SITE TO OPEN TUESDAY IN CHAMPAIGN

A free, state-run, drive-thru testing site will open outside Market Place Mall in Champaign on Tuesday, officials announced this afternoon.

The site, which will operate between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week — while supplies last — is one of four set to open statewide in the coming days.

The site at 2000 N. Neil Street will be open to anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; those with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions; and all employees who support critical services, a list that includes:

— Healthcare workers

— First responders

— Employees of correctional facilities

— Individuals exposed to confirmed COVID-19 patients

— Employees that support critical infrastructure (grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities, factories, childcare and sanitation)

— All local and state government employees

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FORD COVID COUNT DOWN TO 16

The number of confirmed cases in Ford County shrunk today by one — to 16 — after new information was made available, the local health department announced.

“We learned that a previously reported confirmed case is not a Ford County resident. FCPHD learned there was a discrepancy in the address reported with the test results. Therefore, with this announcement, Ford County has a total of 16 confirmed cases,” the health department announced.

Thirteen of the 16 residents who tested positive are no longer in isolation. Two are. One resident has died.

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NEWLY REPORTED DEATHS SPAN 17 COUNTIES

The number of coronavirus-related deaths statewide grew in the last 24 hours by 130, to 4,058, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during this afternoon’s COVID-19 briefing.

Newly confirmed cases were up 2,432, growing Illinois’ total to 90,369, while the number of tests conducted was up 26,565, for a total of 538,602.

The positivity rate statewide for the past 24 hours was 9.2 percent, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

“We all want the positivity rate to come down, which would indicate a declining number of people becoming sick with the virus,” Pritzker said. “The great news is the positivity rate is coming down.”

As of midnight, 4,367 Illinoisans were hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 1,129 of those in ICU beds and 675 of the latter on ventilators.

The newly reported fatalities spanned 17 counties, including Champaign, referring to a death announced earlier this week by the C-U Public Health District:

— Boone County: 1 male 70s.

— Champaign County: 1 female 40s.

— Cook County: 1 male youth, 2 males 30s, 2 females 40s, 4 males 40s, 5 males 50s, 4 females 60s, 8 males 60s, 10 females 70s, 8 males 70s, 18 females 80s, 9 males 80s, 3 unknown 80s, 6 females 90s, 5 males 90s, 1 male 100-plus.

— DuPage County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 2 males 70s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 90s.

— Kane County: 2 females 60s, 1 male 80s.

— Lake County: 1 male 40s, 2 males 50s, 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s.

— LaSalle County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s.

— Macon County: 1 male 80s.

— Madison County: 1 female 80s, 2 females 90s.

— McHenry County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s.

— McLean County: 1 female 70s.

— Rock Island County: 1 female 90s.

— Sangamon County: 1 female 60s.

— St. Clair County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 80s.

— Union County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s.

— Will County: 1 female 70s, 4 females 80s, 1 female 90s.

— Winnebago County: 1 female 90s.

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BAILEY LAWSUIT WILL REMAIN IN CLAY COUNTY

From Rebecca Anzel at Capitol News Illinois:

A downstate judge on Friday denied the attorney general office’s request to move to Sangamon County a Republican representative’s lawsuit challenging Pritzker’s authority to issue successive disaster proclamations.

Rep. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, filed his case on April 23 alleging the governor overstepped his power by declaring more than one state of emergency to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney ordered that Bailey should temporarily not be subject to Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, but an appeals court undid that ruling at Bailey’s request.

The attorney general’s office also unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to weigh in on the lawmaker’s allegations.

Now, McHaney has rejected that office’s petition to transfer Bailey’s case to Sangamon County.

The state argued the move was warranted because the county is the seat of Illinois government, the case has statewide implications and relevant witnesses are located in the county.

Thomas DeVore, Bailey’s attorney, argued in a court document that the state’s request reflects its “motion for substitution of judge cloaked as a forum change for ‘convenience.’”

Devore wrote that the appeal for venue change is being used as a “vehicle for Pritzker to forum shop for a favorable ear,” when such a request would properly be used as “a device to remedy a situation in which the existing forum is truly inconvenient for all parties.”

The shift from Clay County to Sangamon County would be “proper,” the state wrote in its motion, because Pritzker has an “official residence” in Springfield and the executive orders and disaster proclamations Bailey’s lawsuit disputes were officially issued there.

According to statute, the passage of laws and other official state actions must occur in Springfield. Even though Pritzker was last in the state capital to update residents about the government’s response to COVID-19 on March 16 and physically signed the documents in Chicago, they were entered into the state’s record in Springfield with the secretary of state’s office.

“Governor Pritzker maintains his official residence in Sangamon County, and does not reside in Clay County. The orders Governor Pritzker issued for the purpose of combating COVID-19 were issued in Sangamon County, not Clay County,” the attorney general’s office argued in its court filing. “... All of the documents, and the actions they memorialize, are intrinsically connected with Sangamon County.”

DeVore characterized the attorney general’s office referencing Pritzker’s official residence in Springfield as an “obfuscation at its best,” and alleged where the governor lives is not important for determining where Bailey’s lawsuit should be litigated.

“It should not escape this court that Pritzker does not allege he actually lives in Sangamon County,” he wrote in the court document. “Unless the Thompson Center has somehow moved to Sangamon County, given it seems to be the location of Pritzker’s daily press briefings, it would seem readily apparent he is actually residing in Cook County.”

The “relevant documents” mentioned by the attorney general’s office “can easily be printed,” DeVore argued. He added the office offered no information about who the “many unidentified witnesses” are, where they work and live or what knowledge they could offer the judge.

In its filing, the attorney general’s office wrote it was asking McHaney to rule the same way a Peoria County judge did in a case “advancing an identical legal theory to this one.”

Judge Derek Asbury ordered that because that lawsuit sought to declare Pritzker’s executive order “promulgated and issued from Sangamon County” unconstitutional, it made sense to move the case to that county.

“The court cannot ignore the public interest factor of this being a localized versus statewide controversy, touching every corner of the state,” Asbury wrote in his opinion issued Tuesday. “The court finds it is as important to have consistency in rulings on a statewide issue during this pandemic.”

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PIATT STATE’S ATTORNEY: VIOLATORS SHOULD SEEK LEGAL COUNSEL

Within 20 minutes of her Douglas County counterpart making a similar announcement, Piatt County State’s Attorney Dana Rhoades said this afternoon that it isn’t her intention to file criminal charges against businesses or churches that violate the terms of the statewide stay-at-home order, so long as social distancing measures are in place.

But, both state’s attorneys added in the same wording, such establishments should know the risk before doing so:

“The decision to reopen a business is not without potential significant risk in terms of civil liability and licensure revocation. For these reasons, I strongly encourage any business or church contemplating reopening to seek legal counsel.

“Other potential risks business owners should consider in making a decision to reopen include that Covid-19 liability claims might be denied coverage under insurance policy exclusions, if a business is determined to have been operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders, CDC Guidelines, or IDPH Guidelines.  Likewise, injuries to employees normally covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act might be excluded from the Workers’ Compensation Exclusive Remedy Rule.  House Bill 5769 proposes that employers who have been deemed essential businesses would have a statutory duty to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees or could face litigation that would result in a treble (3X) damages award in favor of the injured party, resulting from any violation.  This may also result in the award of punitive damages assessed against the business owner or employer.

“This is not an inclusive list of all potential concerns, issues, and risks that a business or church should consider when making a decision to reopen prior to the modification of the existing Governor’s Executive Orders.”

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WATSON: CRIMINAL PROSECUTION ‘ONE OF LEAST CONCERNS’

Three weeks after Douglas County’s top law enforcement officer said he wouldn’t enforce the terms of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, the county’s top prosecutor says she won’t, either — as long as “sufficient social distancing protocols are in place.”

“In response to the growing concerns of criminal liability for the reopening local businesses and churches, I am notifying Douglas County residents that it is not my intention as the Douglas County State’s Attorney to file charges against such businesses or churches that reopen within our county when sufficient social distancing protocols are in place,” Kate Watson said in a statement today.

That means the state’s attorney responsible for the region that includes Tuscola, Arcola and Villa Grove won’t seek court orders against restaurants or gyms that defy Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order, Watson told The News-Gazette.

“I think the possibility of criminal prosecution in Douglas County is one of least concerns a business or church faces in making a reopening decision, in light of the civil liability issues and threatened license revocations being espoused by the Governor,” Watson added.

Under Pritzker’s five-phase, four-region Restore Illinois plan, non-essential businesses will be allowed to open on a limited basis on May 29, as long as the region they’re located in meets certain criteria, including a COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 20 percent, to advance from Phase 2 to 3.

Phase 3 allows offices, retail shops, barbershops and salons to reopen to the public with safety precautions and limited capacity. Mandatory face coverings and social distancing will still remain, as well as the 10-person limit to social gatherings.

Restaurants and bars won’t be allowed to seat customers until Phase 4 of the plan, when gatherings of less than 50 will be permitted.

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KILLEEN CHOSEN FOR IBHE REOPENING COMMITTEE

UI President Tim Killeen is among 16 administrators who’ll serve on an Illinois Board of Higher Education committee tasked with planning how campuses statewide can open safely this fall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The UI System, with its deep scientific expertise and on-going statewide work related to COVID-19, will ensure the committee has access to the latest public health research and guidance with a lens that is uniquely focused on higher education,” the IBHE said in a Friday announcement.

Joining Killeen on the committee:

— IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro

— Northern Illinois President Lisa Freeman

— Southern Illinois President Dan Mahony

— Chicago State President Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott

— Judson University President Gene Crume

— Loyola University President Jo Ann Rooney

— Northwestern President Morton Shapiro

— University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer

— Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities President David Tretter

— City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado

— Illinois Central College President Sheila Quirk-Bailey

— Lincoln Land Community College President Charlotte Warren

— Rend Lake College President Terry Wilkerson

— Illinois Community College Board Executive Director Brian Durham

— Southern Illinois School of Medicine Dean/Provost Jerry Kruse