URBANA – As Illinois inches towards phased re-opening, Champaign-Urbana officials are preparing plans to re-open Champaign county as well.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin says the city is reaching out to some 120 local businesses to get a sense of what they’ll need to transition to opening.
“Each business is a story in itself, and each business is going to almost need a custom approach to re-open in a way that works for them, and that keeps their employees and the customers safe,” Marlin says.
Both Marlin and Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen say Central Illinois, including Champaign County, will likely be able to move into Phase 3 of the governor’s Restore Illinois Plan in a few weeks. But they are urging people to remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines like social distancing, hand-washing and wearing face masks to keep the county on track to re-opening.
The mayors say it will be months, or possibly years, before Champaign-Urbana will completely re-open.
“We are doing very well as a region,” Feinen says. “It’s really important that we continue to be vigilant, and that we continue to work together. There have been a lot of cries in the last week wanting cities to go it alone, and it’s important for people to recognize, when that happens, it puts our entire region in jeopardy.”
Champaign County is also preparing to ramp up antibody testing throughout the county, officials say.
Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which has been working to develop antibody testing for COVID-19, has completed its validation process for the tests to be used in Champaign County.
The tests show whether a person has had COVID-19 by checking for antibodies against the virus. Carle has concluded the tests are accurate in identifying whether someone has had COVID-19, and the hospital is already testing staff, says Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde.
CU Public Health is working on plans to make antibody testing more widely available in the county, Pryde says.
But she adds there still is a lot unknown about what having COVID-19 antibodies means for an individual– whether it makes a person immune, or perhaps puts them at greater risk of complications if they contract it again.
“You can still test once [the antibody test] becomes available,” Pryde says. “You can have that piece of information for yourself, you can know if you have already been infected. But you should not change your personal behaviors based upon that, until the science catches up with us and we know what that means.”
Pryde says that even when antibody testing becomes more available, individuals should continue using protective measures, like hand washing, wearing face masks and social distancing.
Pryde and the mayors made their comments at a Champaign County Emergency Operations Center news briefing Thursday. If you have a question you would like to ask local officials regarding COVID-19, submit it here.