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217 Today Podcast — Oct. 2, 2020

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The latest news around the state for the week of Sept. 28, 2020.

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217 Today — Friday, Oct. 2, 2020

Today’s headlines: 

  • Pressure on Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan is ramping up as one of his fellow Democrats announced a challenge to his speakership yesterday.

  • Champaign County reported its 2nd COVID-19 death in as many days yesterday, for a total of 22 deaths from the coronavirus. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District reported 56 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.

  • Farmers across the country received federal aid as China put tariffs on crops like cotton and soybeans. Farmers in the South got the highest average payments, largely because of the crops they grow.

In today’s deeper dive, getting the flu vaccine is a simple way to protect yourself — and those at greatest risk — from influenza. And as the COVID-19 pandemic carries on, public health officials say it’s more important than ever this year.

217 Today is produced by Olivia Butts. Reporting today contributed by Hannah Meisel, Seth Bodine, and Christine Herman.


217 Today — Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020

Today’s headlines:

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, many people took up gardening as a hobby. So-called “COVID gardens” popped up all over Illinois. Now that it’s time to harvest, Illinois Newsroom’s Dana Cronin checked in with some COVID gardeners to see how the season went.

  • Illinois public health officials are unveiling guidance for celebrating Halloween during a pandemic.

  • COVID-19 moved more schools and work online, heightening the need for internet access. Many rural communities still do not have access to high speed internet. A new study shows how state and local governments can help, or hinder, bringing it to them.

In today’s deeper dive, staff retention is a long-standing issue within the Indiana Department of Corrections. There are consistently hundreds of vacancies across the state’s 18 adult prisons. But the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.

217 Today is produced by Olivia Butts. Reporting today from Dana Cronin, Seth Bodine, Tony Arnold and Jake Harper.


217 Today — Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020

Today’s headlines:

  • Illinois lawmakers gleaned new information from a Commonwealth Edison executive who testified before them. That’s in the wake of the utility’s own admission that it took part in a bribery scheme to influence House Speaker Michael Madigan.

  • Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday that one of his staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Governor Pritzker and all other close contacts with the staff member will isolate for the next 14 days.

  • The saliva-based COVID-19 test developed on the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus has never operated under FDA authorization — despite prior claims that it did. 

  • Champaign Unit 4 school officials outlined a plan for a mix of in-person and distance learning for elementary students in the second quarter at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. The plan would begin October 26.

In today’s deeper dive, The Rantoul Press is closing after more than 140 years of publication. Illinois Newsroom’s Jim Meadows reports on the paper’s history and the factors that led to its closing.

Reporting today from Tony Arnold, Lee Gaines, Christine Herman, Lecia Bushak, and Jim Meadows. Olivia Butts is our producer.


217 Today — Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020

Today’s headlines:

  • U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois says he wants to see another COVID-19 relief bill move through Congress — that includes a “dramatic investment” in coronavirus testing. He made his comments at a stop on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.

  • A recent court ruling requires the U.S. Census Bureau to keep to its timeframe proposed last spring — extending the decennial population count through the end of October. The bureau previously announced plans to end the count a month earlier, but that could affect Illinois’ redistricting process.

  • An Illinois Newsroom investigation has found that multiple school districts across the state do not track how many students are arrested or referred to law enforcement in school-related incidents each year, despite the fact that districts are required to report this data to the U.S. Department of Education.

  • The seven-day rolling positivity rate for COVID-19 on the University of Illinois Urbana campus is slowly increasing. After testing data released yesterday, it’s up to 0.41%, from a low of 0.31% on September 21. Officials announced 28 new cases of COVID-19 on campus Monday.

And in today’s deeper dive, Illinois Newsroom’s Jim Meadows looks at the race for Champaign County Treasurer, which was a low-profile office until last year, when a backlog of work led to complaints from both taxpayers and taxing bodies.

Reporting today was contributed by Christine Herman, Mary Hansen, Lee Gaines and Jim Meadows. Olivia Butts is our producer.


217 Today — Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Today’s headlines:

  • Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan does not plan to testify this week before a special investigative committee probing his role in a bribery scheme involving ComEd.

  • Several advocacy groups are again readying support for proposals that would offer paid sick leave in Illinois.

  • Shoppers looking for their favorite cuts of meat should see plenty of them. Beef and pork production are nearly back to normal after disruptions caused by COVID-19.

  • Amid a legal battle over the 2020 Census counting deadline, some groups in Illinois are advocating for more time.

  • The Macon County Health Department building will be closed Monday because of a confirmed case of COVID-19 “associated” with the department. Officials say they will thoroughly clean the building and contact trace any close contacts with the person who tested positive.

  • The Illinois Supreme Court hires diversity and inclusion officer, a former associate chancellor at the University of Illinois Springfield.
  • Eastern Illinois University sees enrollment numbers continue to grow, even in the pandemic. 

  • Bloomington is getting $2 million from the federal government to remove lead from 92 housing units.

  • Expired licenses in Illinois now need to be renewed by Feb. 1, 2021. 
  • Bloomington-Normal has had to halt many of its annual traditions because of the pandemic. 

Today’s in-depth report comes from Side Effects Public Media’s Natalie Krebs. There’s a lot of COVID-19 data available through state and federal resources. But those numbers can be confusing — or raise questions, so some data trackers are taking matters into their own hands.

217 Today is produced by Olivia Butts. Reporting today contributed by Capitol News Illinois, Maureen McKinney, Amy Mayer, Dana Cronin and Natalie Krebs. Music by the Kilborn Alley Blues Band.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Jose Zepeda

Jose Zepeda

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