Decatur area residents, along with the rest of the state, have generally reacted favorably to Governor JB Pritzker’s announcement last week that he is extending the stay-at-home and social distancing order until the end of May. (Complete details of the announcement can be found on page 12 of the print edition.)
Obviously, the news is disappointing to everybody but not unexpected. There is no way our community and state could go back to the freedom we had before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit without massive infections and many more deaths. Our state and community haven’t yet peaked in the number of coronavirus infections reported, so there is no way to go back to a “normal life” at this point.
It would be totally irresponsible for our governor and other leaders to lift the “new normal” directives and open the floodgates and let the economic recovery begin — because we would also be opening the gates to a coronavirus infection plague.
As Governor Pritzker correctly said when he announced the extension of his lockdown order until the end of May: “Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives. By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies. I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices we’ve made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working — and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job.”
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve disagreed with Governor Pritzker on several issues in the past and have made my feelings known in this newspaper, but I certainly agree with him on his lockdown extension order to effectively keep our community and state as safe as possible until evidence is there that we are beating this invisible enemy. Overall, I believe he has done a good job in carefully guiding the people of our state in the battle against COVID-19.
• I DON’T believe that we should look for a “magic date” where everything will open up and be like “normal” again. It only makes sense to phase in re-opening businesses and events over a period of time — with strict safety rules to make sure the “one step at a time” re-openings are keeping us safe. Making it possible for everything to “open up” across the state in one single action on one day, is dangerous. We have come too far fighting this disease to do something really stupid now and putting us back into a more dangerous position than we had when all of it started.
• OBVIOUSLY, the governor’s extension of the COVID-19 defensive order will continue to extend the hurt felt by local businesses, especially small businesses. This newspaper is a small business and I can assure you we are feeling the financial hurt the same as about all other businesses — but it is more important to keep our community safe than to open the doors to our businesses to allow public access and spread COVID-19 by opening up too soon. If you read the information about the governor’s order on page 12, the governor has modified the order from the one that covered April to give a little more space for non-essential businesses to re-open with limited access to shoppers. That will begin to help some of the businesses who are in dire need of generating income to survive. Some state parks are also to have phrased-in re-openings. There is also another side of his new order — the use of face masks to protect ourselves and others when we cannot socially distance ourselves. That’s just common sense. I never thought, a few months ago, that seeing people wearing face marks would seem to be something “normal” and those not wearing them would receive an irritated look from others — as in “do you want to spread this disease?”
I suspect that, if too many citizens do not pay attention to the more stringent face mask order, they may be forced to wear the mask or face penalties but I hope it doesn’t get to that point.
• AS I wrote in my “Viewpoint” column on page 3 of the print and online editions, COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives in the very simple, basic routines we’ve had over the years. It’s changed the way we end our correspondence or talk with each other through social distancing. It’s no longer “Have a good day!” or “Regards”. The two word phrase that is so common now is “Stay Safe”, When those two words are written or said to each other, there is no doubt what we are to “stay safe” from.
• A FEW local ministers I’ve talked with have indicated they are reaching more people through telecasting their Sunday morning sermons than they do when their congregations are allowed to meet in the church buildings! There is no question that attending church services at the building lends itself to more fellowship and building each other up, but, once the pandemic is over, some ministers may do what other congregations have been doing for years —hold church services in the building and also reach a larger audience by telecasting them to those who won’t, or can’t attend regular services. I think a lot of people are looking deeper into their lives and faith during this stressful time in our nation — and that part of it is always good.
• NO PLANT SALE — I just received notification that the Decatur Breakfast Sertoma Club will not be holding its annual spring plant sale this year. It was decided that to attempt to hold the sale with the shelter-in-place restrictions would present too many problems. The message concluded with: “We look forward to continuing with our plant sales in the future.” There has never been a time in my long newspaper publishing career that the only news about community events and gatherings has been about their cancellation! Won’t it be great to get back to all of the “normal” events that have been part of our community life for so long?
• I COULDN’T help but notice a truck with a trailer behind it and a few more vehicles in front of a downtown building the other day. I wondered if the business was calling it quits after the governor’s extended “shelter at home” order last week and was moving out for good. I was not able to get to where they were loading the trucks, but it appeared what they were loading was more from an office somewhere in the building than from a retail store.
• SEVERAL of the businesses than have been closed for the past month are owned by business people I’ve known for years. Conversations I’ve had with a few them have left me with the impression that, if the shutdown continues for much longer, they may decide to retire. That is understandable because they have worked for many years to build their businesses and are at an age where they could afford to retire. The problem is, even though they are small businesses, they are concerned about the people who work for them — and the permanent job loss from their company that will so negatively impact the lives of others. I also believe they are concerned about the declining value of their business should they decide to sell and retire. As one business owner told me: “It is worth a lot less now than it was a few months ago.” My overall impression is that, even at retirement age and beyond, the business owners will tough it out. “This is not the way I wanted to retire,” said one.
• SPECIAL thanks to our United States Postal System employees who continue to process and deliver our mail which helps many businesses (and people) to keep going. Obviously, our annual mail subscribers are processed and delivered by personnel of the USPS. A few people have mentioned that, after their Tribune arrives, they don’t read it for a couple of days — as a precaution against some coronavirus germs being on it. (I thought at first it was because of the toxic articles I write.) All scientific evidence regarding how the coronavirus is spread, indicates that it is not spread by mail or newspapers — but I certainly don’t blame anyone if they want to be extra cautious with anything they receive or touch.
• SHOP TALK — The Decatur Tribune offices remain closed to the public as we continue to publish the newspaper each week. We will remain closed until the all clear directive is given and we can return to our regular office hours. Until then, if you need to reach us during business hours, call (217) 422-9702 and leave a recorded message or email us at [email protected] anytime. You can also write to us via the USPS at Decatur Tribune, P. O. Box 1490, Decatur, Illinois 62525-1490.
• SPECIAL NOTE: Many of the recorded messages we are receiving are from “snowbirds” who are returning to their homes in the Decatur area after spending the winter in the South. 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. As I mentioned last week, I emphasize when the change will take place because some people call and say they changed their address on Tuesday but they didn’t get their Trib at the new address on Wednesday — the next day.
• PLEASE CHECK our website at decaturtribune.com for daily reports on how COVID-19 is impacting our community and state and other news items that should be of interest to you. You don’t have to be an online subscriber in order to read those stories.
• 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. I also enjoy talking about our community with Brian, and although the “City Hall Insider” is abbreviated during the pandemic, I always enjoy our conversations.
Stay safe. We’ll make it through this pandemic together.