Friday, March 20, 2020

Illinois to Shelter-In-Place

Rumors have been circulating since yesterday evening that Illinois will "shelter in place" between now and Monday to avoid spreading the virulent COVID-19 virus throughout the state.

Even while President Donald Trump resist putting the nation on lockdown as Spain, Italy and France have done, multiple sources are reporting that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to issue the "shelter-in-place" order for the entire state at 3pm press conference later today.

With the lack of testing, treatment facilities and a reliable cure or vaccine on the horizon, the order is being issue to mandate Illinois residents to stay in their homes to help suppress the spread of the coronavirus across Illinois and prevent medical facilities from being overloaded.

The length of the state's soft lockdown is unclear at this time, but two weeks with the possibility of consecutive resets until the infection rate subsides substantially seems to be the likely starting point.

Medical experts point out that the US infection rate is roughly following the same pattern as in Italy ten days ago. France and Spain are two to five days ahead of the North America. In two weeks, doctors and researchers will know if Illinois social distancing measures will save countless lives.

Italy has reported 41,038 cases with 3,405 deaths. Just over 4,000 who were tested have recovered at this point.

The confirmed cases in Illinois have risen rapidly over the past week because more tests are being processed. As of yesterday, there have been 3,151 test performed. Two people have recovered after testing positive. Meanwhile, 422 residents have been confirmed with the infection. So far, four Illinoisans have died from contracting the virus and the governor wants to act quickly to prevent additional loss of life.

Under the order, residents will still be able to shop for food at stores and food markets, get gas for vehicles, pick up medication at their pharmacy and even take walks. The effort is to curtail gatherings to prevent transmission from person to person. Schools will remain closed under this order.

A local "shelter-in-place" order was issued to residents of Oak Park also at 12:01 a.m. Friday, according the Chicago Tribune. Residents are required to stay at home except "for essential travel as outlined by village ordinance".

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

President Trump unveils new COVID-13 guidelines

Yesterday, President Donald Trump unveiled his Coronavirus Guidelines For America for the next 15 days during his White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

The two-page document included the routine hygienic recommendation of washing hands, sneezing into your elbow and avoiding touching one's face.

The guidelines include instructions such as avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people, avoid eating at restaurants and food courts as well as drinking in bar establishments, not to visit nursing facilities unless to provide critical assistance and to avoid discretionary travel.

The President's instructions also recommended utilizing delivery, pick-up and drive-thru options for fast food or dining. Many states like Illinois have already mandated that restaurants no longer serve dine-in clientele.

Click on this photo to see and download readable version

The President said his administration was doing "a very good job under the confines of what we are dealing with". He praised the way people working on suppressing the virus outbreak have come together to work hand-in-hand.

"It seems to me, if we do a really go job, we'll not only hold death down to a level much lower than the other way had we not done a good job," he said during the briefing while taking questions from reporters.

According to the COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard yesterday, there are 106 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in Illinos. The are distributed throughout the state as follows: Cook 76; Lake 6; DuPage 5; Sangamon 4; Kane 3; McHenry 2; St. Clair 2; Winnebago 1; Peoria 1; Whiteside 1; Cumberland 1; Champaign 1; Clinton 1; Will 1; and Woodford with 1 case.

The second part of the document focus on America taking 15 days to the spread of the virus.

This page tells Americans to stay home if they feel sick and do not go to work. It also asks that if someone in your home test positive for the virus, that the entire household must stay home. No work, school or play and afflicted persons should contact a medical professional.

Click on this photo to see and download readable version

When asked how long Americans will have to endure the disruption in everyday life, President Trump responded that it was his favorite question and that he asked his team of experts that all the time.

"It seems to me, if we do a really go job, we'll not only hold death down to a level much lower than the other way had we not done a good job," he said. "People are talk about July, August (or) something like that. So it could be in that period of time."

He praised those who are taking common sense measures to avoid spreading the disease to the elderly and vulnerable population in the country.

"People are self-containing to a large extent," said. "We look forward to the day when we can get back to normal."

Village of St. Joseph office closed to the public until further notice

While there has been only one confirmed case of the Coronavirus in Champaign County, following the lead of government offices around the state, village officials have closed their physical office in St. Joseph to the public.

There was no indication on the village website when they might reopen at this time.

Residents can, however, still interact with the village and leaders by phone or email during normal business hours. Staff members will be available to answer phones, respond to email and process all payments as usual.

Sewer payments are asked to be made by using the night box on the left hand side of the building. While checks and money orders are the preferred methods as they leave a paper trail to verify receipt, cash payments will be accepted by the village and a receipt will be mailed as soon as possible.

For more information contact the village office by phone at (217) 469-7371. Questions or concerns can be emailed to office manager Julie Hendrickson at or Debbie Routh at

Monday, March 16, 2020

Secretary of State offices are now closed until March 31

All Illinois Secretary of State Driver Services Facilities statewide are now closed as per recommendation by public health experts. Offices will not be open tomorrow and are expected to reopen on April 1.

Because of the closure, expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification (ID) cards, vehicle registrations and other transactions as well as document filings will be extended by 30 days through an emergency rule.

In an attempt to utilize social distancing, Secretary of State Jesse White said in the release that his " will continue to monitor the COVID-19 crisis. Expert advice, news and events involving the virus will influence the reopening date of offices and the Driver Services facilities."

There are three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in the Springfield area according to Sangamon County health officials. One patient is a 71-year-old woman who is in a intensive care unit, another is a Springfield Park Board member in self-isolation at home. On Sunday, another patient was revealed to be hospitalized in Springfield.

"After careful consideration, it is clear that this decision to close offices and Driver Services facilities is the right one to make for the health and safety of Illinoisans," said White on Monday. "This important action will help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

Across Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed 105 individuals out of 1,143 cases tested positive for the Coronavirus. According to the University of Virginia Survellience Dashboard, two patients have recovered from the infection. Illinois has recorded no deaths at this time, while Indiana just reported its first COVID-19 death.

White is reminding residents that many transactions with the Secretary of State’s office may be conducted online at

During the closure Illinois residents are encouraged to go online where they can obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card; renewing a vehicle registration;renewing a standard driver’s license with the Safe Driver Renewal program; and file Business Services documents.

Opening day on hold, here's what 3 Spartans had to say

April 24, 2019 - St. Joseph, IL - Jaden Miller watches a flyball sail overhead during SJO's road game at St. Thomas More in 2019. This year's prep sports season, including SJO baseball, is in danger of being completely canceled due to the Coronavirus spreading throughout the United States. As one of the top baseball programs in the state, Miller and the Spartans were looking forward to making another run deep into the IHSA postseason championships. (Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks)
In a little over an hour from now in past years, the St. Joseph-Ogden baseball team would be out on the field going through their warm-up routine preparing to take on their first team of the season. SJO players and coaches have the program looking up for another historic season including that coveted trip to state.

The rising threat of the pandemic Coronavirus, at least for the moment, has put SJO's season opener and thousands of other high school spring sports team's around the country on hold. The matchup at home against Heritage was canceled.

The Sentinel contacted three SJO seniors via Twitter to get their reaction on not being able to play today. Asking that they express what was going through their minds in three sentences or less, their honest, heartfelt responses are no doubt echoed by thousands of high school athletes around the country right now.

"It’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around the current situation as a whole, with everything changing rapidly and the whole aspect of not knowing. Having my senior season potentially stripped from me is hard to accept, and I’m not entirely sure how I’ll end up accepting it. I’m trying to remain optimistic and keep the big picture in mind."

~ Drew Coursey, Senior

"I am very emotional and saddened by this outbreak. This SJO team was the one to go all the way, but I am still hopeful for a chance to take the field one last time. "

~ Sam Wesley, Senior

"Well it’s hard to put into words what I’m feeling. It’s sort of like an emptiness because I had high hopes for the team. We were looking really really good this year and I’m just hoping it’s not wasted. We will be ready to go if and when we get the chance too."

~ Joey Acton, Senior

Five games you won't want miss on the 2020 SJO Softball Schedule

Hopefully, in 21 days time, the St. Joseph-Ogden girls softball team will back on the field.

When the spring sports season finally returns, seniors Zoey Witruk, Hannah Dukeman, Lindsey Aden and IHSA record-holding slugger Bailey Dowling will be a all-star foundation in head coach Larry Sparks' third campaign at the Spartan helm.

Hannah Dukeman takes a swing at a Rantoul pitch during the Spartans home game in 2019. With the threat of Coronavirus infecting much of the US population, high school sports around the nation has been put on hold. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
SJO finished the 2019 season with at 22-10 record logging three regular season shutouts in 2019 including a 4-0 win over Illinois Valley Central, besting Maroa-Forsyth 9-0 and booking a 17-0 victory over another conference rival, St. Thomas More.

As the #2 seed in last year's postseason run, the Spartans gobbled up bases in the quest for a trip to the 2019 state tournament blanking of Illini Prairie Conference foe Monticello 11-0. SJO beat the Sages earlier in regular season play, 13-1.

The Spartans then put the kabash on Maroa-Forsyth's season by way of 5-1 victory win for the regional title. Then came a heartbreaking loss and unexpected halt to their own season after a 4-2 sectional semifinal loss to Olympia.

This season's schedule is brutal, but should have the St. Joseph-Ogden softball team ready for a deep postseason run yet again if the IHSA reinstates the season.

The likelihood unfortunately looking more and more like a long shot after the CDC released a recommendation yesterday limiting mass gatherings for an eight week period. If the state's public health department follows that guideline, that could very well push the season's official start to May 15. With a mandatory 10-day practice period before the first game can be played, that puts the first possible pitch around the 25th of May, just 11 days before the first scheduled state semifinal game at Eastside Centre in East Peoria.

That said, if Illinois spring sports gets the go-ahead as currently planned, there are five regular season contests you don't want to miss. Each should test both players and coach staff.

It will be worth the road trip to Villa Grove, if it can be snuck in on April 7, and to Unity to watch SJO overcome the Rockets on their new turfed softball field.

You won't want to miss the April 16 home game against Bloomington Central Catholic and it would be sinful to skip out on watching what could be an intense rivalry showdown against Olympia at home on May 4.

2020 St. Joseph-Ogden Softball Schedule

Date Opponent Home
16 March Mahomet-Seymour High School H 4:30
17 March Normal West High School A 4:30
21 March TBA @ Casey Westfield (round robin) A TBA
23 March GCMS High School H 4:30
24 March Westville High School H 4:30
25 March St. Thomas More High School H 4:30
28 March Illinois Valley Central High School H 12:00
1 April Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin High School A 4:30
4 April Rantoul Invite (DH) A TBA
6 April Maroa-Forsyth High School A 4:30
7 April Villa Grove High School @ Richman Park A 4:30
8 April Heyworth High School H 4:30
11 April Tri-Valley High School H 10:00
13 April Rantoul High School A 4:30
15 April Bishop McNamara High School H 4:30
16 April Bloomington Central Catholic High School H 4:30
17 April Mattoon High School (DH) A 4:30
18 April Herscher High School H 10:00 AM
20 April Unity High School A 4:30
21 April Mattoon High School A 4:30
22 April Mt. Zion High School A 5:00
23 April Pontiac High School H 4:30
25 April Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond High School (DH) H 10:00 AM
27 April Prairie Central High School A 4:30
4 May Olympia High School H 4:30
6 May Fisher High School H 4:30
7 May Monticello High School A 4:30
9 May SJO Softball Triangular (DH) H 10:00 AM/2:00 PM
11 May Tuscola High School A 4:30
12 May Danville High School H 4:30
14 May Clinton High School A 4:30
15-16 May Galesburg Tourney (Alexis Fieldhouse: 3 games) A TBA
18 May Charleston High School A 4:30
19-22 May IHSA Regionals A TBA
23 May IHSA Regional Championship A TBA

2020 JV Softball Schedule

Date Opponent Home
16 March Mahomet-Seymour High School @ St. Joseph Community Park H 4:30
17 March Normal West High School A 4:30
23 March GCMS High School H 6:00
24 March Westville High School H 6:00
26 March Urbana High School H 4:30
28 March Illinois Valley Central High School H 2:00
1 April Champaign Centennial High School H 4:30
6 April Maroa-Forsyth High School A 6:00
11 April Tri-Valley High School H 12:00
13 April Rantoul High School A 4:30
15 April Bishop McNamara High School A 5:00
16 April Bloomington Central Catholic High School H 6:00
18 April Herscher High School (DH) H 12:00
20 April Unity High School A 6:00
21 April Mattoon High School H 4:30
22 April Mt. Zion High School A 5:00
23 April Pontiac High School H 6:00
24 April Champaign Central High School A 4:30
27 April Prairie Central High School A 6:00
4 May Olympia High School H 6:00
5 May Champaign Central High School @ St. Joseph Community Park H 4:30
6 May Fisher High School H 6:00
7 May Monticello High School A 6:00
8 May TBA @ St. Joseph Community Park H 4:30
11 May Tuscola High School A 6:00
14 May Clinton High School A 6:00
18 May Charleston High School A 6:00

Happy trails await in Vermilion County Parks

Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the closure of state parks until further notice citing the Coronavirus pandemic as the underlying cause for the decision.

Today, the Vermilion County Conservation District announced that its Kennekuk, Forest Glen, Lake Vermilion, and Heron County Park properties are still open to the public. The parks will remain open until 8pm daily but with reduced services.

Camping, especially at Forest Glen is not permitted until further notice. The Conservation District will not accept shelter or building reservations at this time. Also, all facilities will be closed to the public. Closed facilities include Visitor Centers, Education Centers, Maintenance Buildings, Ranger Station, and inside and outside Restroom Facilities at all four parks.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Illinois state parks closed indefinitely due to Coronavirus

So much for going out for a walk in the woods during the next three to eight weeks to relieve cabin fever induced by a possible eight more weeks of self-isolation or self-quarantine.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources posted an announcement on their Facebook page that all park properties are closed to the public due over the concerns of the Coronavirus. No projected or suggested reopening date was included in the post.

That means no leisurely pursuits such as nature walks, photographing wildlife and spring flowers or enjoying the God-given beauty that the Illinois landscape has to offer.

"All scheduled events on state property are effectively cancelled; patrons are encouraged to call IDNR’s Parks administrative line Monday through Friday at 217-782-6752 with questions," says the post.

The 526 comments were critical of the move, especially when medical professionals say getting outdoors and exercise is important to maintaining a healthy immune system. Many question the logic by the IDNR.

Anthony Majszak wrote: "Close the buildings and events, fine, but why not allow people to walk in the outdoors?"

Another poster was equally flabbergasted.

"So you tell me, in plain English, what this accomplishes? I understand closing down shared facilities, Starved Rock as an example - You would close down the lodge, the hotel, the restaurant and other public access shared facilities. But you don't close down the open air," wrote Rick Munday. "This sends the complete wrong message to the general public!"

One poster offered what seems to be reasonable justification for the closures across the state. "my best guess, these places are already short of staff, present staff is canceled, and people in the general public can’t be trusted...," wrote Laura Jean Cannata.

Bars and restaurants to cease dine-in services, Champaign County has first Covid-19 patient

In the continuing battle to slow the spread of Covid-19, Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered that all bars and restaurants in the state closed to the public starting Monday through March 30. Delivery and drive-up services will not be affected in order for business to continue operations as best as they can.

The announcement from the governor came at the same time that the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced Champaign County's first confirmed case.

According to CUPHD Public Health Administrator Julie A. Pryde, the patient, a 50 year-old woman, received confirmation of positive test results last night.

It was revealed during the press conference streamed live on Facebook and other news outlets the Champaign County resident had come in contact with someone who was recently in Italy. She sought treatment at Carle Clinic earlier in the week after displaying the virus' signature symptoms.

The patient was not admitted to the hospital and went into self-isolation. It was made clear she was not a member of the University of Illinois community, neither student or staff.

After receiving the positive diagnosis, health officials will now trace the woman's movements and contact any individual that she may have been in contact with per the Center of Disease Control guidelines. Investigators will go back 14 days from when the symptoms appeared and look for people she would have been within six feet of for a ten minute period to notify them of possible exposure.

According the Illinois Department of Public Health website today, the infected count has risen to 93 confirmed cases in Illinois out of 1,025 tested so far. Nine hundred and thirty-two suspected cases have tested negative. Illinois has yet to record any deaths related to the viral infection.

Area medical facilities are ramping up for testing members of the community.

"We are seeing every patient that calls," said Doctor Sami Zabaneh, a specialist in Internal Medicine at Christie Clinic. "We ask patients call before we see them."

Medical professionals will screen callers for high-risk symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, coughing. They will also pay particular attention to those who are considered elderly in the 60 and over age group.

"We'll meet them in the parking lot and in the process of putting a tent there, probably coming soon," he explained. "We have special healthcare providers with protective equipment to do the testing in the parking lot outside the facility."

With the typical Influenza A and B strains still running their seasonal course and given the limited number of available kits at this time, the pre-screening process is important.

"Not every cough is the Covid-19 virus. But, we are vigilant," Zabaneh said. "We are emphasizing social isolation, it is very important because one patient can spread the disease to hundreds of people."