• THERE’S been a disturbing rise locally in the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in our area despite the vaccinations that are taking place. As I’m writing this column rising COVID-19 numbers across the state are alarming. Friday, The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Macon County Health Department (MCHD) identified one additional COVID-19 variant strain of concern, P.1, in Macon County through laboratory testing. Earlier in the week, two COVID-19 variant strains of concern, B 1.1.7 and B 1.429, were identified in Macon County, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), variants of concern are those in “which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”
MCHD indicates that persons who test positive for any of the COVID-19 variants of concern will be directed to complete an isolation period of ten days, while their close contacts should quarantine for the full fourteen-day period, as recommended by the CDC. “Armed with this information as we continue to see an uptick in cases, we continue to urge our community to follow the public health measures intended to limit the spread of illness and the negative consequences associated with contraction of COVID-19. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds. If there is no access to water and soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol until soap and water is available. Keep at least six feet of space between yourself and others and wear a face covering in public settings. Limit in-person gatherings. Consider getting one of the three COVID-19 vaccines available.” We are not out of the woods yet in getting past the pandemic. Don’t let your guard down because you think we are about finished with it. We are not finished — not by a long shot. Those variant strains and rising infection numbers — and an increase in hospitalizations should be a warning signal to use some common sense in getting the rest of the way through the pandemic.
• FIVE FOR FIVE — Decatur City Councilman Chuck Kuhle took a lot of verbal abuse that got very personal in recent months by some who wanted to see him defeated in last week’s election. Apparently, voters saw through the verbal assaults against him because, after finishing third in February’s Primary Election, Kuhle finished first in last week’s election, garnering the most votes of any candidate. That means that, out of his three campaigns for county board and two Consolidated Elections for city council, Kuhle finished first in all five! That’s an impressive record and leaves no doubt the voters want him in public office in Decatur.
• SAD LOSS — The Macon County Conservation District, and many others, are still mourning the loss of Executive Director, Richie Wolf, who passed away suddenly two weeks ago on April 1 at the young age of 46. (His obituary was in last week’s edition of the Tribune.) He joined the Macon County Conservation District in 2013, as Nature Center Manager for Rock Springs Nature Center. In October 2019, he became the Macon County Conservation District’s Executive Director. In a news release from the MCCD, it was stated that Richie Wolf will be remembered as someone who had a passion for the outdoors, and for helping the community connect with nature and history.
Some of his accomplishments and contributions to the Macon County Conservation District include: • Leading countless educational programs and field trips, helping people of all ages explore and appreciate nature. Richie was an excellent storyteller and interpreter, and highly knowledgeable naturalist. • Expanding the Earth Adventures summer camp to an all-day, full-week day camp, allowing children to spend more time outside throughout the summer. • Introducing the Rock Springs Summer Concert Series, canoe trips, and many other new programs. • Spearheading renovations inside Rock Springs Nature Center.
“I believe Richie’s legacy will be the work he did with all people to encourage their connection with conservation and ecology,” said Karen Schneller, President of the Board of Trustees at the Macon County Conservation District. The Macon County Conservation District Board of Trustees has appointed the previous Executive Director, Paul Marien, to serve as Interim Director.
We’ve lost a lot of good community-minded people during the past year and Richie’s death at such a young age was especially shocking to me. Others, like Ron James and Orv Graham, to name a few, were longtime friends and I still miss my friendship and frequent conservations with them.
• DURBIN DISCUSSION — U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke Friday with Decatur and Macon County leaders to discuss local transportation priorities ahead of a federal infrastructure bill. President Biden’s recently announced American Jobs Plan is centered on a more than $600 billion investment in traditional transportation infrastructure including $115 billion for roads and bridges, $80 billion for rail, $85 billion for transit, and $25 billion for airports. “Illinois’ highways, waterways, and rail lines are at the center of our national transportation network. As the Senate prepares to take up a bill to rebuild our country’s infrastructure, it’s critical that Central Illinois’ needs are met,” Durbin said. “I was glad to meet with local leaders to discuss some of our infrastructure priorities, such as the Decatur Beltway Connector and Reas Bridge Project and the Brush College Road Improvement Project. I believe President Biden’s plan will help get our communities on track and is an opportunity for historic investment in our future.”
It is a positive sign for our community when Senator Durbin is discussing local transportation priorities with our local leaders.
• MY predecessor in the mayor’s office, Terry Howley, sent me a long email sharing some fond memories of Fans Field following my two-part Scrapbook series. One part I found especially interesting. Terry wrote: “I was part of a group in the early 1990’s who worked with Bob Staley (grandson of A E) to bring minor-league baseball back to Decatur. Bob had purchased a PDA (player development agreement) with the Midwest League and was looking for a site in Decatur to construct a 5000 seat stadium. He approached the city and was told by Mayor Gary Anderson that he would ask the council to approve bonding authority if Bob could guarantee the city that he would keep the team here for 20 years (the term of the proposed revenue bond issuance). “Bob told Gary that he could not promise that as it would be largely dependent on fan support (i.e. ticket and concession/beer sales) year-to-year. “So, Bob shopped around and eventually landed in South Bend, Ind where the city built a 7000 seat stadium and the franchise is still a vibrant part of their on-going downtown rehab project. “Thanks for doing this story. It brought back lots of great memories for me … seeing Bob Fallstrom climb those stairs into the press box, listening to ‘ABE’ cheer on the team and just the excitement of hearing 5000 fans pounding their feet on those bleachers could rock the place!”
Thanks, Terry, based on the response to the series a lot of people are still around who have fond memories of Fans Field — including this editor.
• CONGRATS and best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Lyle E. Eversole of Assumption who will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on April 25. (Story and photo on page 15 of this week’s print edition.) We’ve printed a lot of anniversaries in the Tribune but a 75th doesn’t come along very often. Best wishes to the Eversoles for many more years together!
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co., every Thursday morning at 7:00, for the City Hall Insider part of his program.