As we move deeper into the fight to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus, we are being asked to do what not that long ago, would have seemed ridiculous. Face coverings are now required in public indoor spaces, for both customers and the employees unable to maintain 6-foot social distancing. Many of our local businesses are requiring masks to be worn in order to enter their businesses. Good move. Are you wearing your mask when you are unable to distance yourself from others? I am wearing my mask during the very few times I am away from my office or my home and encounter others at the post office or service station — two necessary stops for us in the publication and delivery of this newspaper. I’ve seen more people wearing masks in the past week than I did at any previous time since this pandemic started. I think people are becoming more aware that protecting ourselves from contracting the disease and making sure others don’t get it from us are critical aspects of keeping our community safe.
• DO PEOPLE recognize you when you are wearing a mask over most of your face? I was walking to the post office the first day that I wore my mask, and at least three drivers called out my name as they were driving past me in on Franklin Street. They recognized me even with a mask covering most of my face. I guess there goes any future career I might have as a bank robber — if people are going to recognize me even though I’m wearing a mask! I wonder if the Lone Ranger had similar problems?
Actually, Clayton Moore, the actor who played the Lone Ranger, told me in an interview many years ago that, when he went into a store without his mask on, no one recognized him, until he said something and his familiar voice gave away his identity.
• EXTENDED — Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz has issued the following order regarding downtown parking: “The previous order suspending enforcement of Time Limited parking on the public parking lots, alleys and streets in the downtown area has been extended through May 31, 2020. We will continue to enforce other violations in Chapter 34, Traffic and Parking of the City Code.”
• MONDAY nights downtown just won’t seem the same without the Decatur Municipal Band playing in Central Park. Muni Band Secretary Therese Allen, sent me the following message about the concerts: “Due to the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Decatur Municipal Band’s concerts for June and July 2020 are canceled. The band, which is in its one hundred sixty-third season, gratefully acknowledges the support of the Decatur community and looks forward in hope to the possibility of resuming its Monday night Central Park concerts in August.”
• POSTPONED — The Little Theatre On The Square in Sullivan has announced that, due to COVID-19 and government restrictions on social gatherings, it will postpone its 2020 Summer Season. Just about everything that Decatur and Central Illinois residents have always looked forward to enjoying during each summer has either been postponed or cancelled. It will be a refreshing change when the area news we report will once again be filled with events and activities that have been so important to our quality of life over the years. I’m sure we will appreciate them so much more when we have our summer events and activities back. I know I will.
• SEVERAL people who have left messages on our office answering machine have indicated what they think should open first in Decatur — and the sooner, the better. By far, the most requested by the callers is opening up the beauty salons. As one woman indicated: “I am more at risk going to get groceries than I am getting my hair done.”
She has a good point.
• WE ARE also getting messages left on our answering machine (not too many people still have answering machines, but this one has come in handy since we are closed to the public) from a few people (one man in particular) who accuse me of not informing people of the truth about the “conspiracy” involved by our government to take over our nation.
“Mr. Osborne, why don’t you tell people the truth about what’s behind this coronavirus pandemic…or, have you been ordered not to tell the truth?”
Okay, here’s the “truth”: A space ship landed outside my window and two little green men got out and told me they had been asked to spread the virus by Russia. They they took off! End of story! Now we know!
It would not surprise me if what I just made up is quoted as the truth on some Facebook page in the near future.
Actually, what I just wrote is more plausible than some of the “conspiracy” theories people are emailing me about the coronavirus. I think some of the people who always have the “inside scroop” need to take a walk in their backyard and get some fresh air — they’ve been isolated for too long! I think the longer people are “sheltering at home” the more indignant they will become towards everybody.
• SOCIAL DISTANCING is “for the birds”? One of our devoted employees sent me an email from home which read: “I was standing on my deck this a.m. and looked across the yard and, lo and behold, the birds are even distancing! There was a cardinal, robin and sparrow and they were spaced out just like we humans are suppose to be!”
• PIGGLY-WIGGLY: I received an interesting email from Doris Allen of Decatur regarding the Piggly-Wiggly stores. Doris wrote: “I am writing in response to your article about the Piggly-Wiggly grocers. You mentioned you remembered we had one in Decatur. A 1941 Decatur phone directory lists 14 stores here. They were numbered from 1 – 16, There wasn’t a number 8 or 11. Don’t know why. They were neighborhood stores. There were many more grocery stores than restaurants back then. Times have changed.”
Thanks for the information, Doris.
• BEST WISHES and prayers for Orv Graham, local insurance professional, long time radio personality, host of “Sunday Morning Easy” at 95.9 on the FM dial. WEZC, and someone I’ve known for as long as I’ve been publisher of this newspaper — and that’s a long time!
Orv has been through a rough health stretch and is certainly in my thoughts and those of many other Central Illinois residents. Continued improvement, Orv. I miss seeing and talking with you at the downtown post office each morning where we pick up our mail at about the same time on “normal” days.
• FURLOUGHS — Not only are local businesses hurting because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and current lockdown in Illinois, local governments are being impacted. When stores and restaurants are closed the loss of revenue for taxing bodies experiences a dramatic drop.
That’s happening in our community, too, and, as a result, the City of Decatur is asking staff to voluntarily furlough their jobs to offset the revenue loss because of the pandemic. City Manager Scot Wrighton is asking city employees to volunteer to temporarily furlough to help defray expenses, but they will be allowed to keep their health insurance during that time.
Unfortunately, if this doesn’t work out and too few employees decide to furlough, I would expect more stringent action will have to be taken in order to cope with the extended loss of tax revenue — and that won’t be good for anybody. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that because the City already doesn’t have the number of employees that it once had years ago due to cutbacks — which always mean cuts in services. Macon County and other taxing bodies are also being impacted by the lockdown.
• REMINDER — 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@example.com anytime. You can also write to us via the USPS at Decatur Tribune, P. O. Box 1490, Decatur, Illinois 62525-1490.
• PLEASE CHECK this website 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 Thursday mornings at 7:00 via phone so that we can shelter-in-place.
Stay safe. We’ll make it through this pandemic together.