Saturday, May 2, 2020

Number of COVID-19 cases rise to 3 in St. Joseph

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District reported that there are two additional confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in St. Joseph. The public health department is now reporting three cases within the 61873 zip code.

Since Tuesday, 39 residents in the county have tested positive for COVID-19 virus. Twenty-five infected individuals were identified in the past two days as the number of confirmed cases continue to rise. Up from around 17 about a week ago, the current number of active cases is now up to 54.

The county has tested 3,361 individuals as of yesterday. One hundred and forty-nine have tested positive, 89 people have recovered and so far just six individuals have lost their lives battling the "invisible enemy" as President Donald Trump routinely calls it.

In other nearby communities, Homer is reporting two cases, Sidney has one and the total number in Rantoul has surged to 17 cases as Friday.

To prevent further spread of the pathogen, the CUPHD is recommending any individual over age 2 and able to medically tolerate a face covering or mask will be required to wear one in a public place where a six-foot social distance cannot be maintained at all times. Wearing a barrier over the nose and mouth, as required by Governor J.B. Pritzker's executive order extension starting yesterday, is the ideal method to keep those with COVID-19 symptoms and asymptomatic carriers from shedding viral material, which is known to remain active on some surfaces for up to 5 days depending on temperature and humidity.

State-wide there have been 284,688 Illinois residents tested to date with 56,055 testing positive. The state has seen the death of 2,457 people from COVID-19 related complications or symptoms.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Viewpoint: Tip your mask - what's the point of wearing one?

WAND-17 aired a story with headline Public asked to 'tip your mask' when entering stores to shop on April 29.

The article states that "All Illinois shoppers out and about during the pandemic are asked to tip their masks in order to avoid confusion and anxiety between the public and business owners."

The idea behind "mask tipping", which is about as dumb as cow tipping, but not nearly as consequential, is when you enter an establishment reach up and pull down your mask so the clerk can briefly see your face.

Why tip? According to the article, "People are asked to slightly lower their mask and briefly show their faces when they enter a store to let employees know they are simply there to shop."

This is some kind of stupid.

I don't know about you but from where I sit, I am far more concerned with being heavily sedated and having a ventilator tube crammed down my throat for four days or longer than I am about being robbed while working behind a counter.

At this point, I believe the odds of contracting the Coronavirus is higher than being robbed in the course of one business day. Plus, the survival rate of an armed robbery is much higher than the 20% figure for that of incubated COVID patients.

Just before surgery, should we now ask the operating staff to pull down their masks so you know they are there simply to cut you open and take out your tonsils, add a cup size, or perform that biopsy scheduled weeks ago? If you don't see their faces, how do you know someone in the room isn't going to harvest your kidney or a lung to sell on the black market? How do you know?

We don't. It is a matter of trust.

If I'm a clerk behind a counter, I don't think that seeing a customer walk in and flash their pearly whites is a guarantee they aren't going to pull out a chrome .45, take the money from the till and I wind up dead.

Mask tipping defeats the entire public health purpose of wearing a mask. The stop gap public policy by design is to lower the volume of active virus material in an environment, thus making an infection from a high communicable pathogen harder to get until a cure or treatment protocol is established is in place. This is what makes mask tipping a stupid idea.

Unless you haven't been paying attention from the back of the class, it takes a special kind of stupid to ask patrons to enter your establishment after touching a likely contaminated door handle with gloves that likely already carrying viral material and then ask them to put their hand on their mask to pull it down. In the process, the customer is transferring active virus cells to an area near their face all the while either inhaling or exhaling contributing to the existing volume.

If shop owners and managers want customers to tip their mask, hopefully they will be courteous enough to put signs on their door politely asking customers enter their establishment to do so.

That way, those of us who are concerned more about our own health and the well-being of our neighbors can just pass them by. I would rather spend my money for goods and services at a business that reflects a commitment to public health and works to help keep our community safe.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Spartan Spotlight with seniors Brianna Dingman, Tia Pruitt & Andrea Cunningham

Brianna Dingman

Clubs & Activities
Chorus, FFA

St. Joseph

A younger brother and sister

Listening to music, drawing, watching TV, and practicing cosmetology.

Favorite SJO memories:
Her greatest memories at SJO revolve around her Chorus classes. She really enjoyed the ILMEA District Chorus Competition at Eastern Illinois University during her senior year.

Favorite classes:
Art, Chorus, and Sociology.

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Bayles and Mr. Risley at St. Joseph Middle School and Mrs. Jennifer Brooks, Mrs. Mary Benoit, and Mr. Nicholas Wolf at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Lakeland College, majoring in Cosmetology.

Advice to future SJO students:
Do your homework and stay caught up.

Andrea Cunningham

Clubs & Activities
We The People, Spanish Club


Older sister and younger brother

Reading, writing, and art

Favorite SJO memories:
She remembers a funny moment in one of her science classes when a paper towel was caught on fire by accident during a lab. This happened so fast, and Andrea and her lab partner will not forget it. Andrea also enjoyed eating lunch and socializing with friends throughout her years of high school as well.

Favorite classes:
U.S. History, AP English 3, and all of her Social Studies classes

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Anderson at PVO and Mr. Don Beckett at St. Joseph-Ogden High School

University of Illinois, majoring in Elementary Education

Advice to future SJO students:
Don't procrastinate and to participate in school events.


Clubs & Activities
Cheer (3 years), Softball (1 year), Student Council

St. Joseph

Two younger sisters and a younger brother

Hanging out with friends and family.

Favorite SJO memories:
She really enjoyed every part of the SJO cheer team her freshman, sophomore, and senior years. She also enjoyed being a member of the Student Council during her junior year.

Favorite classes:
Science and history with Mrs. Beth Beckett.

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Manwaring at St. Joseph Grade School, Mrs. Mabry at St. Joseph Middle School, and Mrs. Beckett at SJO.

Parkland College, majoring in nursing

Advice to future SJO students:
Keep pushing on even when school is tough.

Text & photos provided by St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Viewpoint: It's only a matter of time

By Clark Brooks, Editor & Publisher

I was going to scribble today's editorial yesterday, but I received some unsettling news. The original piece was going to reflect on how I empathized with Illinois State Rep. Darren Bailey, who was granted a temporary restraining order against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s "shelter-in-place" order.

There are a lot of things I miss right now, too. I can't wait for life to return to something resembling the pre-Covid days. If things turn out better, well even better.

Right now, I miss going to the grocery store to pick up fresh vegetables or frozen pizza and a six pack of craft beer. This buying for a week business has got my spending habits out of whack.

I miss playing a vigorous game of tennis. However, while entertaining, my teammates probably don't miss me tossing my tennis racquet against the back fence or slamming it ground in frustration after losing a point.

I miss walking to Black Dog, Bunnies or Courier Cafe in downtown Urbana for a beer and something to eat when I'm feeling too lazy to cook.

I miss my work. I miss covering sporting events for clients and doing postgame interviews with coaches and athletes for Sentinel articles.

In his grand, noble gesture Bailey, who lives in Xenia (pop. 364), told reporters he is only trying to defend residents in his district that are struggling financially because of COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the governor. His goal, he told reporters, was to help get businesses re-open in his district.

I sympathize with that, too. There are people all over the country, not just in Illinois, struggling through stay-at-home orders. I'm one of them. I miss my livelihood, too.

Believing Gov. Pritzker has exceeded his authority and is violating the civil rights of residents by extending the state’s stay-at-home order beyond the 30-day limit, Bailey benefiting from a compassionate bench, is the only resident in the state with TRO relief from the Gov. Pritzker's executive order.

A privilege that he paid $306 in court fees plus attorney fees - probably between another $1,200 to $2,000. That's money he could have maybe loaned or even donated to constituents who might need food to get through the week or help a business with this month's rent. Instead, he spent his hard earn dollars to buy his personal freedom, at least for now temporarily.

There is a growing seed of discontent among residents in the central and southern part of the state. Some 38 days into the social distancing strategy, cabin fever is on an upswing.

Bailey, fanning these flames, reminds me of Dathan, son of Eliab in the Old Testament. Together with his brother Abiram, the Levite Korah and others, Dathan rebelled against Moses and Aaron as they led the Israelites away from Egypt to the Promised Land.

While the majority of the reported cases in the state our in the Chicagoland area followed by border counties on the Illinois side facing St. Louis in second, Clay County, which off the beaten path, with no interstate traffic or tourists attractions of note, has reported just two confirmed cases of the virus since the outbreak.

The coronavirus is a Chicago thing, not a downstate thing.

It will be interesting to see which way the first-term representative steps when the number of cases start to skyrocket in his county. It is only a matter of time.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports nearby Newton, a half hour drive away, has 44 confirmed cases with four virus related deaths. Mt. Vernon, an hour to the south, is reporting nearly twice that amount with 80 cases and 11 lives lost.

While now everything seems peachy in the land of milk and honey around Xenia, but it is only a matter of time before that changes for the 13,850 that live Clay County.

In a farm community about 75 miles north from Bailey's hometown, I have a relative living in an assisted nursing home. The county where it is located currently has five reported cases, two announced this past Sunday and the latest yesterday.

It was in yesterday's phone call when I learned the newest confirmed case is an employee at his care facility. I was told she self-quarantined as soon as she started exhibiting symptoms.

I got my game face on. I am trying not worry about him or the other residents and wonderful staff there. It hard not to when you hear news about the virus in nursing homes like the one over by Springfield in Sherman.

Yes, Mr. Bailey, you should worry. It is only a matter of time.

Plotner signs on to Skyhawk program, college running dream comes true

St. Joseph-Ogden senior Jillian Plotner announced on social media that she officially joined the University of Tennessee Martin running program yesterday.

The four-year cross country and track & field athlete is ecstatic at one of her dreams coming true.

"I am so blessed and excited to announce this! I want to take the time to thank all my wonderful friends, coaches, teammates, fellow competitors, and my family," she wrote in a Facebook post. "It’s been a crazy adventure but I’m so excited for the future!!"

Joining the Skyhawks is also a step in the right direction for Plotner, who wants to become a forensic anthropologist. In August, she will join the College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences to work toward her degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in forensic science.

"I’m very excited to continue my running career to the college level!" she said via a Twitter interview. "It’s been a dream ever since I was younger. This opportunity has shown me that all my hard work does show off and that it is being seen."

Plotner said she was initially contacted by graduate assistant coach Karson Hahn and later meet with him and first-year head coach Kevin Mangan at the IHSA state cross country meet last November.

"They watched me compete and it was such an experience and I absolutely liked them both when I met them," explaining how she was recruited. "I honestly don’t know what I did to get on their radar but somehow it worked!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Keegan McCarty: "Everyone has a special meaning"

SJO pitcher Keegan McCarty
Going into this baseball season, Keegan McCarty had a long list of personal goals he was set on accomplishing this season.

That dream was interrupted by what appeared to be a temporary postponement to the season, and then weeks later the inevitable cancellation of the entire 2020 season, courtesy of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"This was the year I was going to prove I was the number one and going to set so many goals to achieve for myself," he said confidently. "It wasn't as much about (me not being able to improve my game) statistics that disappoint me, but it’s the way it ended. I was expecting top end running onto the field winning the state championship, not this."

Advice from a senior
"Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t wish things to be over quicker then they should be. Academically , don’t wait until the last second to do homework and study for tests. Athletically, enjoy the game and love every second you have with the team."
Baseball, especially playing with his fellow seniors after going through tears, joy together, and learning to fight through the difficult times, was the best thing to happen to him through high school. His best memories at SJO are from overnight baseball trips over the years and every one of the Homecoming assemblies he has attended.

"The pitchers and hitters were finally starting to click and all I could think was, 'Wow'... this year was going to be so special," said the four-year veteran hurler while explaining how much he had matured as player and personally. "This is why it’s all disappointing when there is so much potential and it gets taken in a matter of four or five days before the start of the season. Last year was not what we wanted, this was our revenge tour and no one was going to stop us."

McCarty is disappointed but not bitter about the season the will never be. He genuinely believes Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made the right decisions so far during the pandemic. He assured me if he was governor, he would have taken the exact same steps.

"I would rather things get shut down now to help slow down the number and flatten the curve so by next school year students are allowed back at school," he explained. "Even though we caught it at the wrong time and seniors are missing graduations and their final seasons it’s better to be safe than sorry.

"I just want to be able to play my first college ball in the fall and I know seniors across the country want to put their pads on for the last time and shutting things down now is what is necessary."

While fellow classmates are swallowing the bitter pill of no en mass graduation ceremony with family and friends until later this summer, a canceled Prom and no spring sports season, McCarty, with brutal honesty, described bigger, more bitter pills growing up.

"There’s been a couple difficult times, but I think the one that hit me the most was when I was younger," he said when asked what was the most difficult time in his life and what he learned from it. He hopes the story won't damage his relationship with his family, but a story nonetheless he wanted to share. "When I was younger I had to witness some horrible things that kind of affected who I am today."

Growing up he watched his father and step sister fight, in his words, "all the time."

"Sometimes it would be physical. One time I had to leave on a school day and go stay with my grandma in Indiana, and come back the next day for school," he recounted. "I had to witness cops come to the household countless times when my sister would run away or cause a disturbance with my dad."

McCarty, who lives in St. Joseph, feels like he acquired a high level of inner strength and resiliency from this turbulent period in his childhood. Through the emotional and difficult episodes one of the important lessons he learned was to value those around him.

"This taught me to respect those around me as everyone has a special meaning to someone’s life. Fighting with each other everyday can create negative effects on someone," he explained. "It taught me how to be strong on the inside and not let things get to me so easily. Although, sometimes it still happens and I keep everything to myself."

His favorite classes at St. Joseph-Ogden High School have been Accounting I and Accounting II with Mrs. Harbaugh and Civics with Mr. Beckett. His favorite teachers through the years include Mrs. Izard at PVO; Mr. Risley at St. Joseph Middle School; and Mrs. Veronica Harbaugh, Mr. Marshall Schacht, and Mr. Jeff Kieffer at SJO.

When the homework is done and practice is over, McCarty says he enjoys deer hunting, running and working out.

After high school, he will attend Lake Land College where he will major in accounting and play baseball. He chose the Lakers' program because they hired Julio Godinez, a former assistant at Eastern Illinois University. He is looking forward to expanding his knowledge and pitching skills from an experienced Division I pitching coach.

"I chose to go to Lake Land as it wasn’t necessarily close to home and I wanted to experience college life away from St. Joe and the Champaign area," he said. "There were opportunities to go further away but understanding I’m from a smaller school I wanted to go the JUCO route to get used to playing against bigger and better players.

McCarty said he will miss a couple things when heads off to college in the fall.

The most important one is his comedic sidekick and fellow senior Joey Acton. The duo, whose bond is as strong as any pair of sibling according to McCarty, will never fade.

"(We've) even have been asked if we were brothers countless of times," he said. "Our very own guidance counselor, Mrs. Rein, has mixed us up!"

Acton, says McCarty, has provided a number of side-splitting, hilarious moments throughout their years friendship.

"This dude does some pretty funny stuff, such as throwing a golf club into the little water areas when we putt-putt or crack jokes that make me laugh for five-plus minutes. Sad that we will be an hour apart in just four months."

When discussing his future after college, McCarty has no idea where he will be in ten years. One thing is for sure, he won't be living in Illinois. He is thinking California or maybe Florida. He is not picky as long as it is somewhere with warm weather, and maybe on a farm away from lots of people.

"It’s really hard to know," he said. "I think it depends on how college goes with baseball, but if that doesn’t work then I believe I will be working at a business as an accountant."

"I will try to reach and help out young ball players and coach a team hopefully," he added.

SJO senior spotlights with Josh Sexton, Isaac Walden & Jackson Wooten

Jackson Wooten

Clubs & Activities
Band (4 years), Scholastic Bowl, Rube Goldberg Team, We The People

St. Joseph

One brother and one sister

Hanging out with family and friends

Favorite SJO memories:
During his freshman year, he marched with the SJO band in the Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. This is a moment he will never forget, including many other great memories he has had being involved with the SJO band. Also, Jackson enjoyed the Homecoming assembly during his junior year. He felt as if the whole school was connected during this assembly.

Favorite classes:
Band, and all of the classes he has he has taken with Mr. Marshall Schacht.

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Pirtle at St. Joseph Grade School, Mr. Dassow and Mrs. Stone at St. Joseph Middle School, and Mr. Don Beckett, Mr. Jeff Kieffer, Mr. Marshall Schacht, Mr. Kiel Duval, and Mr. Robert Glazier at SJO.

Plans to start at Parkland College and transfer to the U of I to major in Mechanical Engineering.

Advice to future SJO students:
Work hard, and to keep plugging away to be successful.

Josh Sexton

Clubs & Activities
Cross Country (4 years), Track & Field (2 years), Band, Chorus, Drama Club, Spanish Club, NHS

St. Joseph

One younger sister

Anything relate to theater.

Favorite SJO memories:
He has really enjoyed being a part of the SJO cross country team. This past winter, Josh was a part of the All State Musical at Illinois State University, which is an event he will never forget. Also, Josh really enjoyed attending the district band competition at Olivet Nazarene University. He will also remember everything that was theater-related at SJO as well. He is also very proud of signing up the SJO theater shows for the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards.

Favorite classes:
Band and Civics

Favorite teachers:
Mr. Dassow and Mrs. Ford at St. Joseph Middle School, and Mr. Williams, Mrs. Heather Lindenmeyer, and Mr. Marshall Schacht at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Illinois State University majoring in Music Education

Career Goal:
Earn a master’s degree and perform on Broadway.

Advice to future SJO students:
Do not underestimate yourself.

Isaac Walden

Clubs & Activities
Baseball (2 years), Maroon Platoon
Art Club


Two older sisters

Rollerblading, mini golf, and bowling.

Favorite SJO memories:
Going to the IHSA State volleyball games during his freshman year and senior year was fun. He also remembers a hilarious moment from his freshman year when, while practicing a "how to" speech, one of his classmates threw a paper airplane he was working on, which hit Mrs. Franzen in the face during English class. This was definitely an accident, but it was a quick, hilarious, spontaneous moment that he will never forget.

Favorite classes:
All of his history classes with Mr. Jeff Kieffer, Mr. Marshall Schacht, Mr. Don Beckett, and English with Mrs. Alisyn Franzen.

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Pierce, Mrs. Stewart, and Mrs. Max at PVO; and Mr. Kieffer, Mr. Shawn Skinner, and Mr. Schacht at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

University of Illinois at Springfield majoring criminology.

Advice to future SJO students:
Get all of your homework finished.

Text & photos provided by St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Spotlight on SJO senior Lexi Ribbe

Lexi Ribbe

Clubs & Activities
Cheer (2 years), Dance (1 year), Maroon Platoon, Maroon Platoon Leader, Advisory Mentoring Program, Spanish Club

St. Joseph

Older brother

Traveling, walking, shopping, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.

Favorite SJO memories:
She will definitely remember all of the home and away games she has gone to over the years, and being with her friends at these games was a great experience. She has also enjoyed being an office helper with Mrs. Hoveln and Mrs. Falls the past two years.

Favorite classes:
Geometry with Mr. Kiel Duval, Advanced Biology with Mrs. Stacey Kietzman, P.E. with Mr. William Billman, and Economics and Civics with Mr. Marshall Schacht.

Favorite teachers:
Mrs. Pridemore at St. Joseph Grade School; Mrs. Hilton at St. Joseph Middle School; and Mr. Duval, Mrs. Lianne Rash, and Mrs. Kietzman at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

University of Oklahoma, majoring in radiology

Advice to future SJO students:
Enjoy high school, do your best, and get involved.

Text provided by St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

New members inducted into SJO's National Honor Society

Tonight, thirty-one St. Joseph-Ogden students would have been greeted to rolls of the National Honor Society at an induction ceremony at the school. With all Illinois schools closed by an Executive Order from the governor, the ceremony honoring the newest members, like classes, has also gone online.

NHS advisor Jared Lofrano posted a 13 minute and 26 second video welcoming their newest members.

The inductees for the 2019-2020 school year include: Abigail Behrens, Ella Besson, Brandie Bowlin, Mara Burkhalter, Crayton Burnett, Anastasia Conerty, Deanna Cummins, Sidney Davis, Makayla Duckwitz, Kylie Duckett, Hanna Eastin, Nadirah Edwards, Ashley Eldridge, Jared Emmert, Lauren Harper, Payton Jacob, Ava Knap, Ethan Lane, Ashlyn Lannert, Kelsey Martlage, Garren Meeker, Conrad Miller, Alec Painter, Jessica Palmer, Emma Parkinson, Erin Patton, Taryn Sexton, Alyssa Shoviak, Rylee Stahl, Mackenzie Trame and Rachel Wilson.

"These students, as well as our current members, are active in extracurricular activities, have outstanding character, demonstrate great leadership and excel in their academics," Lofrano tells viewers in the opening statement. "While this format for this induction and recognition ceremony is far from ideal, it is an honor to celebrate the hard work and dedication that all of these students have exhibited during their high school career."

Also found on YouTube, parents, family and friends can view the introduction and induction of each new member by NHS President Faith Dahman and Vice-President Zoey Witruk in the video below.

Current NHS members include: Lindsey Aden, Eliza Lewis, Isabelle Brooks, Aiden Livesay, Jenna Albrecht, Tyson Madsen, Mallory Ames, Sophia Martlage, Taylor Barnes, Flannery McCorkle, Katelyn Berry, Eric Poe, Emily Bigger, Hannah Rajlich, Payton Cain, Indira Robinson, Brendan Cooperider, Mazie Ronk, Kristen Costa, Jenna Schaefer, Drew Coursey, Evan Schmitz, Faith Dahman, Joshua Sexton, Hannah Dukeman, Tessa Smith, Emily Fisher, Kenly Taylor, Lucas Grindley, Stephanie Trame, Erica Guelfi, Payton Valle, Atleigh Hamilton, Brayden Weaver, Lacey Kaiser, Brayden Wendt, Shelby Kofoot and Zoey Witruk.

In addition to Dahman and Witruk, the other remaining office holders include Lindsey Aden as Secretary, Kenly Taylor maintaining duties as the Treasurer and Mallory Ames holds the position of Historian.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Delicious veggies and more, FFA plant sale starts on Monday

Looking flowers or vegetables for your garden this spring?

Tomorrow at 9am the next round of the St. Joseph-Ogden FFA Chapter will be open for business. Orders for available plants must be done online after it goes live tomorrow at Buyers can set a pick-up time to collect their purchase.

Starting its second week on Monday, the sale includes Hungarian sweat wax peppers, San Marzano tomatoes, a couple types of cabbage, and broccoli. There are also a good selection of geraniums in assorted colors available.

Proceeds from the sale is to support the school's greenhouse operation help expand students practical knowledge on agriculture and growing practices.

"It gives the students an opportunity to learn while getting their hands dirty! There is a small profit made on the plant sale which goes back to the greenhouse fund to continue running the greenhouse," said Darcy Nekolny, one of the high school's agriculture teacher and a FFA advisor. "It also is used for some greenhouse based labs we complete in class as well as helping prepare the FFA members for some Career Development Events (CDEs) such as the Horticulture CDE."

This is the second year of sales after the greenhouse was completed in the fall of 2018.

"We're definitely still learning the best way to utilize the greenhouse, and what people in the community want in a plant sale," Nekolny said. Closing out her first year at SJO, she was surprised how quickly plants sold out last week. "I was absolutely astounded how quickly plants sold out last week!"

She also had a huge thank you to area residents after last week's sales.

"The level of community support for the SJO FFA, Agriculture Department, and Greenhouse has been incredible," she said. "Thank you!"