• AS WE’RE GOING to press with this week’s edition, “We Back The Blue”, a rally in support of Law Enforcement is planned for Water Street and Mound Road on Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. until noon. Those attending can stay 15 minutes or the entire two hours. Also, those attending are being encouraged to bring signs of support and to wear red, white and blue — or just blue.
Instructions with the announcement state: “Attire and signs should be uplifting and positive. Please no ‘Lives Matter’ signs or clothing as they could stir up conflict. This is not a protest. It is a show of support and appreciation.”
Another event is in the works as we are going to press called “Decatur Police Department Appreciation” on June 25th from 1:15-3:00 for police officers at the Decatur Police Department. Those attending are encouraged to wear red, white, and blue, wave flags and hold up posters to show the community’s appreciation. Drinks and goody bags with snacks and prayer cards for our police officers will be handed out from information I have received.
The new “We Back the Blue Decatur & Macon County” Facebook page states: “This is a page to support law enforcement. Only positive and uplifting posts will be allowed. Language or phrases that incite conflict will not be allowed. Sorry for the censorship – but our ONLY goal is to encourage LEO’s.”
• CONGRATULATIONS to Decatur’s own, Andy Roberts, who is currently Director of Flight Ops in the USAF, and presently deployed, but, when he returns to the states, he will take command of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, in northern California.
C. Geoffrey Cameron, Lt Col, USAF Commander, 9th Operations Group, wrote: “Please congratulate our newest confirmed Squadron Commander. Lt Col Andrew ‘Shack’ Roberts is currently serving as the 99 RS DO and will take command of the 99 RS this winter. We look forward to Lt Col Roberts continuing the great work that the 99 RS has accomplished under Lt Col Mundy’s leadership.”
Andy, a son of D. R. and Ann Roberts, is a 1998 graduate of Eisenhower High School and 2003 graduate of Olivet Nazarene College. It seems like only yesterday, that Andy was a kid in Decatur and was an outstanding basketball player on Eisenhower’s teams. In fact, it seems like only yesterday that D. R. was a kid in our church. Time is passing by at a high rate of speed…it seems.
• CITY UPDATE: A few of the update items sent by the City of Decatur in a recent news release are worthy of special attention, especially since there has been some focus by City Councilman David Horn in a recent “Letter to the Editor” about the lack of fire inspectors in Decatur.
“Our fire inspection and investigation services will be replaced, through some type of yet to be determined, more cost-effective alternative,” was the statement made in the city update. Also, “The City is pursuing an aggressive neighborhood revitalization through increased demolitions and code enforcement actions. Our goal is to slow down the rate of which homes end up on the demolition list, as demolitions alone, are not the answer.
“The City of Decatur, as every other government, we will need to look for ways to be more efficient and cost effective in light of the financial impact the Covid-19 is having on our economy and our finances.”
Decatur, like about all communities (and states), faces some tough decisions as a result of a tremendous loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
• MAJOR EVENT — It was a busy time in the Decatur Civic Center Parking lot Saturday morning as the United Way Food Box Drive Up was held and so many people drove up that William Street was partially blocked off causing one person to email me and ask if I knew there was a big demonstration going on at that location. There was a demonstration alright, but it was an event showing how big of a heart is in this community. The United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois partnered with Central Illinois Foodbank, The Community Foun-dation of Macon County, Neuhoff Media, Crossing Healthcare, and Tate & Lyle, to distribute 500 free food boxes to families in the community. Congratulations to United Way and all those involved in a caring effort.
• LESS RESTRICTIONS: Thanks to those who have been following Center For Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Health guidelines of wearing a face covering, social distancing and frequent handwashing, the COVID-19 curve has been flattened and our community’s health metrics are in line to move to Governor J. B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Phase 4 in a few days.
If you are wondering how restrictions will be loosened as we move into Phase 4 on June 26, here’s the information on what to expect as announced by Governor JB Pritzker earlier this week: “Phase 4 allows for the safe reopening or expansion of several key business segments – such as health and fitness, movies and theater, museums and zoos, as well as indoor dining at restaurants. Phase 4 also allows for expanded gathering sizes, increasing the limit from 10 in Phase 3, to 50 people or fewer. This expanded gathering limit extends to key activities like meetings, events, and funerals. For full guidance and other resources visit: Illinois.gov/businessguidelines.
“Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan creates safety guidelines for the following permitted activities and businesses to resume, with capacity rules in place:
• Meetings and events: Venues and meeting spaces can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people OR 50% of overall room capacity. Multiple groups are permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups. This includes activities such as conferences and weddings.
• Indoor and Outdoor recreation: Revised guidelines to allow select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks), as well as clubhouses to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers OR 50% of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50, and permitting multiple groups given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Indoor Dining: Indoor dining can reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced 6-feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity.
• Museums: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Zoos: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits, indoor exhibits, and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; zoos should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Cinema and Theatre: Indoor seated theaters, cinemas, and performing arts centers to allow admission of the lesser of up to 50 guests OR 50% of overall theater or performance space capacity (applies to each screening room); outdoor capacity limited to 20% of overall theater or performance space capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Outdoor seated spectator events: Outdoor spectator sports can resume with no more than 20% of seating capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Film production: Allow no more than 50% of sound stage or filming location capacity; crowd scenes should be limited to 50 people or fewer.
Industries with revised guidelines in Phase 4:
• Youth and Recreational Sports: Revised guidelines allow competitive gameplay and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50% of facility capacity, 20% seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50 with multiple groups permitted during practice and competitive games given venues have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
• Health and fitness centers: Revised guidelines allow gyms to open at 50% capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors, with multiple groups permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups.
• Day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly. Additionally, retail, service counters, offices, personal care (including salons, barber, nail salons), manufacturing and other industries allowed to reopen in Phase 3 will continue to operate at a reduced capacity.”
THERE YOU HAVE IT. As we anticipate moving into Phase 4 it is apparent that it will not be a wide-open phase but will still have some restrictions which will continue to impact our local businesses. Obviously, if safe practices are not continued and there is a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases, Phase 4 could end and we would be forced back to tighter restrictions and in worse shape (including being completely demoralized with many businesses closing down for good) than we have been.
BY THE WAY — Something to keep in mind is that, as we move into and experience Phase 4, information released by the governor also included the fact that “common public health standards remain in effect – including the use of face coverings and social distancing. Industry-specific guidelines may vary but are designed to help employers, workers and residents feel safe in transitioning to the next phase of reopening the state. All industries should continue to conduct regular cleanings, employee health screenings upon entry and mid-shift, and allow employees who can continue working from home to do so.
“The state’s move to Phase 4 of the plan is expected to bring approximately 400,000 additional Illinoisans back to the workplace across all industries. While Phase 4 marks the return of 7 percent of the state’s workforce, it accounts for about $30 billion in annual GDP returned to operations and represents continuous progress towards fully reopening the state’s economy.”
Let’s keep moving forward.
• POSITIVE SIGN — The Joint Crisis Communication Team issued a statement earlier this week that presented another positive sign that we are moving forward: “The Joint Crisis Communication Team (CCT) is announcing that the COVID-19 releases will only be sent out daily only on the weekdays, Monday through Friday. The exception to this case would be that in which we receive critical information that needs released promptly, in which case we would act accordingly.
“We have worked hard to provide our community with pertinent information surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to do so. We believe that there is still information and statistics that we need to get out to the public on a continuing basis, so we are committed to moving forward with that in mind. COVID hasn’t gone anywhere and we encourage residents to continue to take proactive measures to prevent the spread of illness.
“As always, the entities and agencies that make up the Joint CCT are committed to serving you and keeping you as safe as we possibly can while we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.” Less frequent reporting means much less to report on the number of confirmed cases and deaths in Macon County. That’s really positive news!
• GOOD NEWS — Tribune Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara posted elsewhere on this website that the 22nd Annual USTA/Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic will help reopen men’s professional tennis in the United States August 17th -23rd at the Fairview Tennis Center in Decatur. That’s great to hear!
Tom wrote: “The Beck family has once again agreed to sponsor the USTA Pro Circuit Event. This is the twenty-second year of the tournament as well as the twenty-second consecutive year in which the Beck family has agreed to be the title sponsor.
“The Beck family is proud to continue our 22 years of sponsorship of the Ursula Beck tennis tournament,” said Matt Beck. “It’s been a great honor and we continue to support all the efforts by the Decatur community and tournament director Chuck Kuhle. We look forward to its success in 2020”.
Tom will have more details in next week’s edition of the Decatur Tribune. Kuhle, who is also one of our city council members, has done a fantastic job with the tournament and the Beck family continues to make our community proud with their long-time involvement in positive community events and projects.
• THE Decatur Tribune office at 132 South Water Street will remain closed to the public a little while longer until I’m sure the number of COVID-19 cases remains low in Macon County. Although there is presently no public access you can contact us at 422-9702, or firstname.lastname@example.org or at our mailing address at P. O. Box 1490, Decatur, IL 62525-1490…or you can slide a form, letter, legal, renewal form or other information under our office door and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Thanks to everybody for working with us in a more awkward way than is usually the case. Believe me, I really look forward to getting back to our “normal” operation including public access and sit-down interviews with local leaders and others making news in Decatur. Hopefully, with our community moving into Phase 4 of the governor’s plan to reopen Illinois, all of us can move forward, with caution, to enjoy the “freedoms” to come and go, and serve the public, as we have always been able to do — at least during my lifetime.
• I’M still on WSOY with the City Hall Insider portion of Byers & Co., each Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m., via calling in to chat with Brian. I’m pleased that is continuing despite what has been happening over the past three or four months and really look forward to being back in the studio for our usual face-to-face chats.
• STAY SAFE everyone. Protect your families, others and yourself by practicing safe routines during this difficult time. We’ve come too far to let our guard down now and be forced to go back and shut about everything down. Stay the safe course.