As most of you know by now, students from PreK through 12th grade in Decatur Public Schools will participate in virtual learning only for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year. The first day for student instruction will also be pushed back to Monday, August 17, 2020. That announcement was made on Friday and it was a tough one for our school district leaders to make because it impacts our community in so many ways. However, there is no question that it was the right decision out of some painful options. Of course, the disappointment in “things not getting back to normal” that would have started happening with the opening of the school year, is being felt and it is depressing for many in our community. However, the health and safety of our children, teachers and staff should be the top priority in any decision, which, considering what we know about COVID-19, and what we don’t know about it, was the only reasonable path to take. There really was no other viable, workable choice despite a few emotional comments to the contrary.
• BROWN OR ROOT? As this column is going to press, we still don’t know who won the 2018 Macon County Sheriff’s Race following the completion of the recount last week. Sheriff Tony Brown was declared the winner by one vote over his opponent Jim Root but the vote totals were legally challenged by Root when some votes were apparently not counted following the 2018 election, A recount was eventually ordered.
On Friday, Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner sent out the following information: “The full manual recount of all ballots cast for the Office of Sheriff of Macon County in the November 6, 2018 General Election is complete. A report is available on the Macon County Website www.co.macon.il.us, by precinct, showing the number of unchallenged ballots counted for each candidate and the number of challenged ballots not yet counted for either candidate. “Pursuant to Court Order this report has been submitted to the Court. Furthermore, the Court will schedule a status hearing to discuss what further steps need to be taken by the parties to conclude this litigation. This is only a report to the Court and does not change the outcome of the 2018 General Election.”
On the basis of the recount, Brown now leads Root by 18 votes. The recount showed Brown with 18,982 votes to Root’s 18,964. However, the recount also shows that 1,337 votes are being contested meaning a judge will have to determine whether those votes will be counted. This is the wildest election result battle that I can ever remember — at least in Decatur and Macon County! It’s been, in my opinion, extremely unfair and stressful to both men that it has taken so long to resolve this matter — and it still isn’t resolved at the time this column is being written.
• RACE HEATS UP — The race between incumbent State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and her Republican Challenger Charlie McGorray of Decatur in the 96th District (which represents most of Decatur) has been fairly quiet — until now.
Thanks to Commonwealth Edison, and charges that the company bribed Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan with “lucrative jobs, contracts and monetary payments” there’s been a ripple effect among elected officials throughout the state. Court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, indicated that prosecutors charged ComEd with one count of bribery, but say they will defer prosecution and eventually dismiss the charge if the company cooperates with ongoing investigations of other “individuals or entities” involved.
Calls for Madigan to resign are along party lines, with Democrats hesitating to make the call and Republicans immediately calling for the Speaker to go, Scherer issued a statement last week which quoted her as stating “The issue involving Speaker Madigan and ComEd is in the hands of the Justice Department. We must insist that justice be served. “I want to make it clear to my constituents that I voted ‘No’ on the bill in question regarding Com Ed’s rate increase, although the bill passed.” Scherer made no mention of whether Madigan should leave office.
McGorray left no doubt where he stood: ““I am today calling for the immediate resignation of House Speaker Michael Madigan due to the admission of pay-for-play corruption by ComEd in their settlement with the US Attorney’s office. For far too long, the people of the 96th District have suffered from the corruption of prominent Illinois Democratic lawmakers such as former Rep. Luis Arroyo, former State Senator Martin Sandoval, and former State Senator Tom Cullerton. Our residents have experienced higher taxes and more regulations as prominent Democratic lawmakers have been involved in major corruption scandals.” Scherer made no mention of whether Madigan should leave office. McGorray left no doubt where he stood: ““I am today calling for the immediate resignation of House Speaker Michael Madigan due to the admission of pay-for-play corruption by ComEd in their settlement with the US Attorney’s office. For far too long, the people of the 96th District have suffered from the corruption of prominent Illinois Democratic lawmakers such as former Rep. Luis Arroyo, former State Senator Martin Sandoval, and former State Senator Tom Cullerton. Our residents have experienced higher taxes and more regulations as prominent Democratic lawmakers have been involved in major corruption scandals.
“In my district, our current Representative Sue Scherer has once again been silent on this issue. As the reports of corruption continue to grow and as other corporations are brought into this via subpoena, Representative Scherer has yet to comment on the growing scandal. Could it be because she was handpicked by Speaker Madigan and has taken almost $1 million dollars in campaign funds from the Speaker and his ally PACs in the past 8 years? Representative Scherer, what is your position on the Speaker’s corruption? Will you join the mounting calls of the voters in our district for his resignation? Our district deserves better representation.”
• UNMASKED — Many of the local businesses have signs on their doors that customers will not be permitted to enter unless they are wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’ve heard from several people who informed me that some of the stores they have visited have about everybody wearing a mask, but some do not wear the mask over their nose and some, once they are inside the store, pull the mask off of their face and just wear it like a necklace around their neck.
Now, scientific research has discovered that “Wearing a mask without covering your nose is like applying your first round of sunscreen at the end of a beach day — pointless.
“That’s because scientific research has found that the novel coronavirus infects your nose first, using it as an entry point to the rest of your body and as a mucousy hotspot for rapid replication.
“So, people who don’t cover their nose with their mask risk exposing their most infectious organ to others, and increase their own chances of contracting COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.”
“If the nose is the dominant initial site from which lung infections are seeded, then the widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages, as well as any therapeutic strategies that reduce virus in the nose, such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays, could be beneficial,” wrote Dr. Richard Boucher, the co-senior author of a May study on the topic from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Similar studies that have been released reflect the same conclusion. It is not enough to wear a mask. If the mask is not worn properly and exposes the nose, the prevention aspect of the mask is greatly reduced. Maybe businesses will have to reprint their signs to show some people how to wear masks properly. Just saying…
• WRONG DIRECTION — It hasn’t been that long ago that our daily report on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Macon County had dropped to almost none. In recent days that has changed drastically and we’re moving in the wrong direction! Over the weekend the number of confirmed cases hit 62 and, according to Brandi Binkley of the Macon County Health Department, the 62 people infected have been around other people, risking further spread of the virus. The uptick in cases was so concerning that a press conference was held Monday, which included Binkley, Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and Macon County Board Chairman Kevin Greenfield to sound the alarm about the rising numbers and the necessity of every citizen to take the spread of this virus seriously.
“The more people are around one another, the more the cases will go up,” said Binkley, who also stressed the need for wearing a mask, social distancing and proper handwashing techniques.
• MAYOR Moore Wolfe, because of the increase in cases, has issued an Executive Order which allows for Decatur’s Liquor Commissioner, Councilman Patrick McDaniel, to pull the licenses of businesses that aren’t practicing social distancing or paying any attention to capacity numbers. Moore Wolfe said that it is something she doesn’t want to do but will go to the liquor commissioner if a business is not operating under the rules. The executive order will remain in effect until the next scheduled city council meeting when the council could extend the order and do even more.
“It’s about protecting others around you. Make August different. Wear your mask. Save our community and our economy”, said the mayor.
Macon County Board Chairman Kevin Greenfield also issued an appeal: “Suck it up and wear a mask.”
• SOME places of business are not playing by the safety rules. A local businessman told me that he stopped to pick up a take out order at a local restaurant and was shocked to see 60 to 70 customers inside with no social distancing. I’m sure the City of Decatur and the Macon County Health Department are receiving similar bits of information. I’ve also heard from some business owners who said, that, if they have to shut down again, they will not re-open. Believe me, I understand exactly how they feel and they are very serious about giving it all up because they can’t afford another shut down of their business. They’ve already gone the extra mile,
• I HAD to pick up some items for our office at the Staples store and was especially pleased that everyone in the store, customers and employees, were masked and obvious steps were being taken to make the place as safe as possible. As I was leaving, I saw a man heading for the front door without a mask and figured that he would put one on when he got to the front door. He didn’t and was immediately stopped upon entering. I couldn’t hear all of the conversation, but they may have been telling him that they could provide him with a mask if he wanted to shop inside. That was an extremely rare, but ne-cessary, trip inside a business (except the Tribune) for me since the pandemic began, but I was pleased with the precautions Staples had in place.
• I’M STILL doing the City Hall Insider portion of the Byers & Co. show with Brian Byers each Thursday morning at 7:00 on WSOY. I’m thankful that we can still talk about the issues confronting our community via the phone, but look forward to being back in the studio sometime in the future.
Stay safe everyone, not only for yourself but for those around you.