THE ‘BEAR’ FACTS — A couple of weeks ago, in my usual Thursday morning discussion with Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co., the subject of the bears in Fairview Park (gone since 1972) came up and as I was looking through our archives, I found a “Scrapbook” article written by Mark W. Sorensen a few years ago. Mark is the Official Macon County Historian and a past president of the Illinois State Historical Society and a history of the bears was included in a much longer article about Fairview Park. It stirred a lot of personal memories for me, so I decided to print that “Scrapbook” in today’s print edition of the Decatur Tribune, which will stir fond memories of another era in the park’s long history in our city — and the bears!
• BLOOD PRESSURE — Have you checked your blood pressure lately? You might be surprised at what your body is going through in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m hearing and reading about people receiving high blood pressure readings, strictly because of the patients’ reaction to the COVID-19. As I understand it, nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure to begin with, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control. “But as the coronavirus pandemic adds stress and complexity to everyday life, doctors are noticing even higher numbers across the board.”
• I WENT for my six months routine check-up at my doctor’s office on Thursday and guess what? My blood pressure had gone from the normal of 126/70 to a much higher reading! I’ve talked with some other people I know, and their blood pressure readings have also gone up significantly since COVID-19 came into our lives. Obviously, publishing any newspaper under the present circumstances, with no public access to our offices for the past four months, is going to increase stress in an already stressful environment in working to meet deadlines. I don’t think the elevated blood pressure reading, at least in my case, is all about the extra stress in publishing each edition, with limited staff. Rather, I think the chaos and hateful expressions and divisions going on in our nation are triggering an increase of high blood pressure, not only in myself, but many others. It probably also explains why some people have become so hateful, accusatory and demeaning of others.
• I HAVE started taking my blood pressure each day and, if it doesn’t go down to its usual level, my doctor will probably put me on some blood pressure medication to bring it down. Also, during the pandemic I haven’t been taking my daily walks through downtown, except for the daily trip to the post office, and I’m sure that lack of exercise is playing a role in the higher reading. The good news: my oxygen level in my blood is 98% — so I am still breathing and getting oxygen to my brain despite what some may think (smile).
• I WOULD SUGGEST that, if you don’t have appointments for routine checkups at your doctor’s office, you get a blood pressure machine to keep at home and check your readings from time to time. High blood pressure, unchecked, can lead to a host of problems, including stroke and a heart attack. It can also play havoc with other organs in your body. I don’t want to lose any of you (or myself) so consider my experience and check yourself out. High blood pressure is called “The Silent Killer” for a reason. I figured, when I went for my routine checkup, that my blood pressure was going to be higher than on the previous visits, but it was much higher than I had anticipated.
• I’M NOT a doctor, or a medical researcher, but I’m pretty sure I’m accurate in saying that a mask that is pulled down that only covers the mask-wearer’s chin is the same as wearing no mask. I believe I can say with certainty that COVID-19 is not transmitted to other people through the chin! The same is true with those who just wear a mask around their neck and not on their face. Don’t believe the neck has infected anyone! I’ve seen several people, even employees in the few places I’ve gone, just wear the mask over their mouth and leave their nose totally exposed.
• MASK REQUIRED — Since I wrote this column last week, major companies such as Target, Kroger, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Verizon, Menards, Best Buy, Starbucks, Kohl’s, Dollar Tree, Panera, Sam’s Club and many others, with the number growing everyday, have adopted the policy of requiring masks to shop in their places of business. That mandate is now in effect. For those people who claim that such a requirment is an infringement on their rights as Americans, and stores cannot do it — actually they can. Businesses have every right to dictate the policy they want to operate under — during a pandemic or without a pandemic, as long as there is no discrimination regarding race. If customers refuse to wear a mask and claim they will never shop there again, they will have to go somewhere else, but, considering how many major companies are taking this step, not only to protect their employees and the public, but to avoid litigation, shoppers may run out of places to buy what they want simply because they refuse to wear a mask.
Of course, the businesses will welcome back those mask-wearing customers who stopped going inside because of those shopping in the stores with them were without masks. Also, anyone who will not go into a business if they have to wear a mask, can take advantage of delivery and curbside options, so people will not be without the means to purchase food, groceries or other items. I can’t figure out why people will go to all of that trouble to avoid wearing a mask if they feel it doesn’t do any good and there’s no good reason for it. Just put the mask on and shop as usual.
• CITY Councilman David Horn, in a “letter to the editor” in this week’s Tribune, is calling for greater enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines. He wrote: “The Decatur City Council can and should instill confidence that our city is and will remain safe.”
• CITY Councilman Bill Faber, in his paid regular column on page 7 of the print edition, takes a closer look at the salary and benefits of Decatur’s police officers.
• WE WENT to press before a final vote was made by the Decatur School Board on accepting a new contract with Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants Tuesday night. However, based on a joint statement released by Decatur Public Schools and the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants on Friday, the school board will vote in the affirmative. Friday’s statement read: “On Tuesday, July 14, Decatur Public Schools reached a tentative agreement on a 2019-2023 successor contract with the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants (DFTA). On the afternoon of Friday, July 17, members of DFTA voted to ratify the contract. The DPS Board of Education will vote at its meeting Tuesday, July 21, to accept the contract agreement. Details of the agreement are being withheld pending Tuesday night’s vote.”
• ALONG with everyone else, I’m awaiting the release of the Decatur School District’s “Return To Learn” plan which is scheduled to be released Friday. With the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic hanging over our heads, it is difficult to plan for much of anything. In a statement from DPS a few days ago, it indicated that “District administrators have been working alongside principals, teachers, teaching assistants, secretaries, other staff, parents, and students to develop a robust plan that prioritizes the health and safety of students and staff while maintaining dynamic learning opportunities.
“We want to ensure the plan considers the changing health status of our region, and that it is carefully and critically examined from every angle before its release.”
This is going to be a really tough call to make and implement, regardless of what is announced on Friday.
• CITY UPDATE: This is the most recent report from the City of Decatur that was available at press time:
• Nearly 10 % of Macon County residents have been tested for Covid-19. Positivity rate in Macon County is around 2.5%. These are good metrics and reflect well on our testing capacity and our residents desire to do the right thing and get tested when there is any concern of having the virus.
• The City is not intending to adopt a citywide mask requirement, but is encouraging our businesses and residents to do right thing and where one when appropriate and recommended. • The City is reviewing and revising our MBE (minority business enterprises) including adding incentives for more minorities to participate in our purchasing and contracting process. Local preference was also discussed.
• The City Council has authorized the City staff to provide CARES Act money that the City received to our local nonprofits to provide financial assistance for those in temporarily in need of rent or utility bill relief.
• The City of Decatur Police Department is in the process of transitioning to encrypted radio frequency to combat sophisticated criminal activity and provide more officer safety. The City has countered this long overdue change by implementing body worn cameras. The City and our Police Department are committed to maintain or increasing our level of transparency and accountability to the community we serve.
• The City has reduced staff and maximizing our efficiency in order to respond to the financial disruptions that this current pandemic has caused.
• For the full video on what the City is doing during these uncertain times, click here for the video https://www. youtube.com/watch? v=avNrrwpeSy0
Stay safe everyone and have a positive rest of the week.