• AS I am writing this column there’s been 11 COVID-19 deaths of Macon County residents. Ten of the deaths have been among residents at Fair Havens. Every time there is a report of someone passing away or being infected with coronavirus, it should not only make us sad, but strongly encourage us to follow the well-known steps in protecting ourselves and others against this dreaded disease. We are publishing the daily (sometimes twice daily) updates on what is happening as our community, along with communities across the nation, (and world) battle this hidden enemy of the people.
• A RECENT informal poll on our website, regarding what preventive measures are being taken by those participating in the survey, indicated that about 78% of the participants are either practicing social distancing or sheltering at home, or doing both. Approximately 24% of those responding are wearing a mask when they have to be out in public doing grocery shopping, etc. The poll involved a limited number of people so not a lot of stock should be placed in the results — although, based on what I’ve seen in our community, it may not be too far off in the percentages. I’m seeing more masks being worn than I did a few weeks ago.
• I NEVER THOUGHT I would live to see the day when people in Decatur and Macon County would be walking around wearing masks. It hasn’t been that long ago that, if someone would have approached me with a mask on, I probably would have thought I was going to be robbed and would put my hands in the air! Now, seeing someone with a mask seems perfectly “normal” and non-threatening. Our perspective on what goes on in our community and the world, has changed in only a matter of weeks. They call that the “new normal”.
•THE 2020 Chamber Business Expo has been postponed by the Decatur Regional Chamber of Commerce because of the uncertain future in when such events can safely be held. The message from the Chamber stated: “We will determine the rescheduled date once we are no longer sheltering in place.”
I probably don’t need to write this but I will: I wouldn’t plan on attending any public event until the danger of COVID-19 has passed and it is safe to gather again. The present situation has shut down about everything that usually happens in our community — including in-person church services, traditional entertainment gatherings and most of our businesses. For most of us, we are still trying to totally comprehend, not only the scope of deaths and infections — but the long range impact on all of us.
• THE MAYOR always delivers his or her “State of the City” message at a breakfast during the Business Expo. I think it is good that the “State of the City” message will also come at a later date — considering what “state” the City is in right now because of the major health battle against COVID-19. There is also the loss of revenue because so many businesses are closed down.
• THE VERY FIRST speech I gave after being elected mayor was the day after winning election to my first term and I had not slept for two days because of also meeting the press deadline of the Tribune and reporting the results of the election in the newspaper. I remember the date was April 2, 2003, because the day before when I was elected was April 1st — April Fools Day! (Being elected on April Fools Day was just a coincidence…at least I think it was a coincidence.) By the way, the President of the Chamber, who was nearby during my speech was…Julie Moore Wolfe, a long-time good friend, who is now Decatur’s mayor. Also in the audience was Mike “Tuna” McElroy, who was elected to the city council the same time I was elected mayor and was a very close ally during the years I served — and who, after I left office, was elected mayor in the next election. As about all of you know, Tuna passed away five years ago.
Oh, by the way, the first interview I did as mayor-elect that morning was with Brian Byers on WSOY — and 17 years later we still talk every Thursday morning on the City Hall Insider part of Byers & Co. Time has passed quickly and, as the years pass, long-time friendships become more meaningful for me.
• MAYOR Julie Moore Wolfe’s updates on the community’s battle against the coronavirus at 6:40 each weekday morning on Byers & Co. over WSOY are meaningful and informative. We hear from President Trump and Governor Pritzker each day about what is going on in our nation and state, it seems especially important to hear a daily update from our mayor about our community and where we stand in the fight against COVID-19. As I mentioned on Byers & Co. last week, the mayor has some important skills and experience in communicating what’s happening in our city because she is a former WAND-TV anchor, president of the Chamber, worked in state government and in public relations for both of our local hospitals. She certainly has a lot of important contacts in government that she has acquired over the years — and that is also a help to our community.
• SKIP HUSTON, head honcho of the Avon Theater, sent me an email over the weekend stating: “I just had the first V8 that I’ve had in several years (I like the Spicy Hot). I was staying away from it because of carbs and sodium, but I figured ‘Happy Quarantine’. “I thought of you when I drank it! Delicious! AND…groovy and far-out too!”
Thanks for the “confession”, Skip. It makes me want to comb my hair back in a ducktail while I’m drinking my V8! Probably the younger generation doesn’t even know what a “ducktail” is and never heard of Kookie Burns (who passed away earlier this year).
• SARA PALACIO, Donor Relations Consultant for Community Blood Services of Illinois, sent the following message: “Blood drives are considered an essential service, so we are continuing to hold drives where possible. The next Macon County drive is scheduled for Wednesday, May 13th. For an appointment, go to www.bloodcenter.org and use group code 60858 or contact Jeannie Durham at 424-1472 or [email protected]
“We have implemented appointment only schedules & social distancing as part of our COVID response plan. We will also be reducing the number of appointment slots per hours to reduce the donor overlap on the Bloodmobile. If we have a high interest in donations, we will want to take a look at extending the times to accommodate this.”
• CHANGES from the normal — This week’s Macon County Board Special Finance Committee Meeting was conducted via tele-presence due to the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order. The public and media were not allowed in the board room. The message came from County Clerk Josh Tanner, who added the following information to make sure people knew the meeting wasn’t being held “in secret: “If you would like to listen to a live feed of the meetings you can use this link https://meet30933402.adobeconnect.com/ruh18ucinjjg/ . You will not be able to comment or ask questions and the chat function will not be monitored. The session will open at 2:45 pm to allow everyone to get connected.”
As I mentioned this is the “new normal” when it comes to meetings of our elected officials. The Decatur School Board meeting Thursday morning at 8:00 will be closed to the public. The notice of the meeting stated: “Due to precautions to protect public health and safety, the Board meeting will be CLOSED to the public.”
The Board of Education has been accepting written or electronic comments from residents to become part of the public record. If any additional information is needed contact Board Secretary Melissa Bradford at 217/362-3010 or 217/362-3011.
• ABOUT ALL OF the meetings of elected boards and committees in the community are being held under much tighter restrictions until COVID-19 is no longer a threat in our community. Still, those residents wishing to express comments have been given an avenue to voice those comments through written correspondence instead of making their comments in person. Since we are coping with a terrible disease that has infected some of our residents, the “new normal” is necessary at this time — although it certainly is awkward for citizens and board members alike.
• THE DECATUR City Council’s meeting Monday night also operated under similar restrictions. The modifications of the council meetings because of COVID-19 are very detailed and are printed at the top of the agenda. (I have printed the modified rules on page 23 of this week’s print edition of the Tribune and as you will be able to read, they are quite lengthy.)
• THE DECATUR Tribune offices remain closed to the public as we continue to publish the newspaper each week. If you need to reach us during business hours, you can either call (217) 422-9702 and leave a message or email us at [email protected] anytime. You can also write us via the USPS at Decatur Tribune, P. O. Box 1490, Decatur, Illinois 62525-1490. Thank you for your patience.
• NOTE: If you are calling to change your address, leave the change on our voice recorder when you call and make sure to include your name. Remember, after you call to change your address, it will be changed on the week following your call, so make sure you call early. Due to preaddressing, we can’t change the address of the edition that is published the same week you call.
• PLEASE CHECK our website at decaturtribune.com for daily reports on how COVID-19 is impacting our community and state.
• THE CITY Hall Insider is still on WSOY’s Byers & Co. Thursday mornings at 7:00 and it is still being done via phone so that we can shelter in place. Thanks to Brian for all the work he is doing in getting needed information out to everybody. Great job!
Stay safe. We’ll make it through this pandemic together.