WOW! The Austin (Texas) City Council passed a resolution Thursday allowing for a fine of up to $2,000 for anyone violating a “health authority rule” like not wearing a mask. According to the report, the resolution was supported by Gov. Gregg Abbott who said, “As you know, these orders were created and adopted based on advice from medical experts, and if these orders are followed, we will be able to protect both public health and the livelihoods of our citizens.”
Although I wear a mask (I’m in the high risk category through pre-existing conditions and age) when I know that I’m going to be around other people, and wish others would also wear a mask during those times, I think assessing a fine of $2,000 for anyone caught not wearing a mask is going overboard, although I can understand the “fear factor” involved in the council’s decision because Texas is one of the “hot spot” states as I’m writing this column.
Despite allegations to the contrary, there is a ton (maybe two tons) of medical and scientific evidence that show a mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. A lot of people, even in our own community, who refuse to wear a mask, either because they don’t care or think wearing a mask is politically driven and the testimony of medical experts, reports in the news media, hospital records, etc. are all fake and a hoax. I guess they also believe that COVID-19 cases and deaths being announced in other countries are also part of a hoax.
Anyhoo, I would be against our own city council assessing $2,000 fines, and a possible prison sentence of 1 year (as is the case in some other communities across the nation, especially those in hotspots for the virus) for anyone caught not wearing a mask or not practicing social distancing.
• IN CONNECTION to what I have just written, a spike in COVID-19 numbers in Decatur and Macon County, as we have been seeing in Illinois during the past week, that’s high enough to start shutting down businesses again, will have a devastating impact on our community. I know several business owners who barely made it through the initial wave, and are still struggling trying to make things work operating under Phase 4 with limited public access and a lot of restrictions. Keeping our community as safe as possible through safe practices will save lives, businesses and give a positive future for our city’s growth. It is as simple at that.
• NEW BUSINESSES — I couldn’t help but notice that, over the past three months we’ve been running a lot of “Assumed Name Notices” from residents who are printing the legal notices in our newspaper to complete the requirements of the county to start a new business. While it seems a little strange that new businesses are starting up at this time, I assume those starting the businesses feel it is a good time to start a new chapter in life — especially if they have been laid off or their job has been eliminated. Best wishes and much success to all of them. Their optimism about starting a business in Decatur is a real positive.
• MACON County Circuit Clerk Lois Durbin has retired from her position as of June 30th. Lois did not run for re-election and her very capable assistant, Sherry Doty, who has no opposition in the November election, has assumed the position. Thanks to Lois for her many years of public service to our county and community — and best wishes to Sherry who has an enormous amount of experience in working in that office.
• A BIG CONGRATS to my long-time Decatur Tribune Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara on being honored by District #61 Athletic Hall of Fame in the new category of “Significant Contributors to Athletics” to recognize those outside the games themselves, who contributed heavily to District 61 athletics. J. Thomas, along with Scott Busboom, were selected by the Hall of Fame committee to be the first two inducted into the new category. (There is a story and comments on page 11 of this week’s print and onlineeditions.)
Tom and Scott have contributed a lot of time and energy in covering and promoting local sports and they are obvious choices — at least that’s how I see the committee’s decision. J. Thomas has covered the sports scene for me for 44 years and is the only sports editor in the history of the Tribune. Who covered local high school sports during the years before J. Thomas started with the Tribune? That was one of the many hats I wore during the last 50 years-plus since I became editor and publisher of this newspaper. J. Thomas started with me on a “trial basis” to see how he would work out. Obviously, it worked out fine!
• I JOIN Brian Byers for a chat each Thursday morning at 7:00 on WSOY’s Byers & Co. It will be nice to sit down in person and talk face-to-face back in the studio some future day when the pandemic fades and it is safe to do so. Until that time comes, I enjoy talking to Brian about our community via the phone.