THE COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted Decatur and Macon County in a way that’s mind-boggling and difficult to grasp. I’ve never seen such a changing impact on a community and nation in such a short period of time. Since there has been. and continues to be, a lot that we don’t know about this virus, extreme measures have been taken, and continue to be implemented, as necessary to protect our citizens. Businesses have been closed, meetings, events and usually routine activities cancelled because of the potential of the coronavirus being spread. All high school, college and pro sports events have been cancelled. (Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara has more on the impact on sports on page 10 of this week’s print edition.)
• ON FRIDAY, all public and private schools in Illinois were ordered closed for two weeks by Governor J. B. Pritzker as part of the state’s effort to control the coronavirus from spreading in our state. Over the weekend, all bars and restaurants in the state were ordered closed for two weeks by the governor, except for pick-up or drive through lanes. About all activities and events in Decatur and Macon County have been either postponed or cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19 even though no cases were reported in Macon County as of last week.
The traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Decatur was not held Saturday because of virus concerns. Many church services were not held in the area Sunday due to virus concerns. Some of the churches telecast their services to compensate for not being able to open the buildings to members and the public. Now, it appears that most churches are cancelling their services for the next week or two because of the virus.
I will not attempt to list all of the cancellations and postponements that we’ve received here at the Tribune, because that list is continually expanding and, since we are a weekly newspaper, it is virtually impossible to print an accurate list. As we go to press, some of the upcoming meetings and events already listed in this week’s edition have been cancelled so it would be wise to double-check to see if the meetings will still be held (which is doubtful) or services that we’ve become accustomed to are still available. I would advise checking with electronic members of the media, such as WSOY, for constantly updated information.
As we are finishing this week’s print edition more businesses are informing us of either closure or limited access for customers. I’m sure this newspaper will have to take steps this week to limit access to our offices to protect staff — most of us are in the “at risk” bracket that is being impacted by the virus. I’ll keep you informed. A lot also depends on our suppliers, press and mailing services, and the many others it takes to get the newspaper to you. You can also check this website for updates at decaturtribune.com
I have more comments on the coronavirus and its impact in my “Viewpoint” column on page 3 of th print edition. Stay safe, we don’t want anything to happen to any of you, or any of us. We are all in this together — and we need to look out for each other.
• CONDOLENCES and prayers for long-time friend and Decatur City Councilman Pat McDaniel on the passing of his mother, Blanche (Bonnie) M. McDaniel, 96, of Decatur, on Friday, March 13, 2020. Her obituary can be found on page 20 of this week’s print edition. Adding to the sadness is that Pat was not able visit his mother because of the lockdown at the nursing home where she was receiving care because of the coronavirus. When they did call alerting him that she was near death, she passed away before he was able to get out there and see her one last time. I’m sure others are experiencing visitation lockdowns at about every facility because of the coronavirus and are unable to see loved ones at the present time. Although sad, the precaution is entirely understandable.
• EARLY VOTING — Because of the coronavirus uncertainty, I decided to early vote Monday in the Macon County Clerk’s office. I’ve voted in every election since I was old enough to vote (my first time voting wasn’t when Abraham Lincoln was elected President). I have always voted on Election Day, so Monday was the first time I voted early. Since the Macon County Building is only a block away from my office, I walked over and was a little surprised at how easy it was to vote. I thanked County Clerk Josh Tanner for the convenience and he replied in an email: “I am glad your first time early voting went well. Thank you for the compliment I will pass that along to the employees. They are the ones that really make this possible.”
• SINCE we go to press on Tuesday afternoon so the thousands of Tribunes can be printed and addressed and delivered to the Decatur Post Office on Wednesday, the results of Tuesday’s election were not available by the press deadline. I am anxious to find out how many people voted in Tuesday’s Primary Election and the results — which we will know by the time you read this column.
• GOOD MOVE — It was announced on Friday that community and health leaders in Decatur and Macon County have formed a Crisis Communications Team in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. City and county leaders have joined with representatives of Decatur Memorial Hospital, HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, the Macon County Health Department, Crossing Healthcare and IEMA, to form the team. The Crisis Communication Team is following all protocols set by the state and IDPH and also encourage residents to “maintain social distance, wash hands frequently, avoid large crowds and stay home if you are sick in any way.”
The collaboration is of great benefit to our community and will also provide vital information to our residents as we move through this crisis.
• THANKS to The Howard G. Buffett Foundation that announced Monday a commitment of up to $1,000,000 to address food and medical resource needs in support of Macon Count’s emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak. (Story elsewhere on this website.) Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, will work in concert with the Crisis Communication team, led by Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and Macon County Board Chairman Kevin Greenfield, and comprised of area health leaders, as mentioned in the previous item.
• BLACK FLAGGED — South Franklin Street, also known early in the morning, as “Raceway Blvd.” (that’s what I call it) because of all the fast drivers heading north and breaking the speed limit, saw some different activity last Wednesday morning. Instead of the green flag waving to start the traffic on Raceway Blvd., several of the drivers were “black-flagged” by being pulled over by members of the Decatur Police Department! (Black flag in racing means you are out of the race.) In the space of about 20 minutes, I saw the police pull over 4 vehicles and writing tickets, either for speeding or running a red light, or something else.
I couldn’t help but notice that the windows in one of the pickup trucks were so heavily tinted that it concerned me when the officer walked up to the driver’s side door after pulling over the truck I still contend that heavy window tinting on vehicles poses a danger to law enforcement officials, and to private citizens, but any effort by Senator Chapin Rose to pass legislation to ban heavy tints on windows dies rather quickly in Springfield. So, be careful when driving into the downtown area on South Franklin Street and don’t let those big pick-up trucks that flash by you intimidate you — you’ll pull up beside them at the next stoplight!
• OUCH!!! I received this email from Debbie Creek regarding her reaction fo a trailer plate renewal fee increase: “I just received a renewal notice for trailer plates that were $18.00 a year. My new rate is $118.00, Over 6 times what it use to be. I am talking about a 6 ft wire mesh trailer to haul our lawn mower to our mom’s yard to mow. We use this thing maybe 12 times a year. I thought it was a mistake and they put us in the wrong category, but after several phone calls and emails, that is right.
“The last response from Jesse White’s office was that it wasn’t them. It was our legislature that passed the bill. Where is that money going? I dodge pot holes every day to get to work. The new rates are listed on Secretary of State web site.”
I can see why Debbie would be shocked. One of my sons posted on his page that he was also shocked that the license renewal for a trailer he uses to haul lawn mowers went from $18 to $118.00! Several months ago, I printed the new renewal rates passed by our “friends” in Springfield and I was shocked by the across-the-board increase! By the way, our license renewal fee for our 3/4 ton newspaper delivery van increased from $101.00 to $151.00!
Maybe, when you receive your license renewal notice, you should sit down before you take a closer look at it. It could cause a heart attack!
I discuss the issues with Brian Byers on the “City Hall Insider” hour on WSOY’s Byers & Co., each Thursday morning starting at 7:00.