Area COVID cases hit six-week low

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District data shows the total number of COVID-19 cases for six villages The Sentinel covers is now down to 66, a six-week low. The county's seven-day rolling positivity, excluding University of Illinois testing is a mere 6.1% and our region is down to 9% as of December 23.

On November 15 the area's active cases nearly doubled going from 69 to 110 after tests confirmed 41 new cases. The bulk of the surge came from households in Tolono and St. Joseph. The number of confirmed cases peaked at 142 on November 22, two days after Illinois was mandated to Tier 3 guidelines.

Despite the declining number of cases in Region 6 and 20% or better availability of ICU beds, Governor J.B. Pritzker has made it clear that he has no plans in the near future to relax restriction for our region and Region 1, which have met the criteria to roll back to Tier 2 mitigation.

"Since the surge hit us, it’s been important for us to get the right trajectory of cases, and hospitalizations and ICU use, and to make sure that we get to the right level," Pritzker said during his press conference a week ago Christmas day. "Remember, there are still many hospitals around the state, that have limited ability to take in new ICU patients, or even new hospitalizations. And so we’re trying very hard to bring it down all across the state before we start to relieve the regions from Tier 3 to Tier 2."

Rather than "yo-yo" in out of stricter mitigation measures, the Governor said he is taking a wait-and-see approach for a week or two after the holiday period.

Illinois reported 3,293 new and probable cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the statewide total since the beginning of the pandemic to 934,142. The state also reported 66 new deaths, raising the overall toll to 15,865.

Illinois' case total is now at the lowest since Oct. 19, when 3,113 cases were reported. And on Thursday, the state's seven-day average for coronavirus deaths fell to 116, its lowest point since December 2.

Photo of the Day: December 26, 2020

Quarterback Keanen Swanson
Going long

Junior Keanen Swanson looks to throw a pass during St. Joseph-Ogden's home football game against Illinois Valley Central in 2017. Swanson and the Spartans, who finished 4-5 after a heartbreaking loss to Monticello in the regular season finale two weeks later, rolled to a 38-20 victory against the Grey Ghosts.
PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Roe & Co making its way to Illinois next year

Diageo, one of the world's largest beverage alcohol distributor, plans to introduce Roe & Co Blended Irish Whiskey, in Illinois in 2021.

Made from the finest hand-selected stocks of Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in bourbon casks, the Irish Whiskey is a contemporary blend, non-chill filtered and bottled at an ABV of 45 percent (90 proof). According to Diageo, "It has the signature smoothness of Irish Whiskey with remarkable depth of flavor – a luxuriously smooth blend, with a perfect harmony between the intense fruitiness of the malt and the mellow creaminess of the grain whiskies."

Photo Provided
Last year, Roe & Co converted the Guinness Power Station into a new urban distillery in the heart of Dublin's whiskey district adjacent to where the old George Roe and Co distillery was originally located. The company has teamed up with Guinness in a new advertising campaign highlighting the importance of being good neighbors.
Named after George Roe, regarded as a pioneer in the distillery and export business during the golden era of Irish whiskey in the 19th century, his distillery was located on Thomas Street in Dublin and was a neighbor to the well-known Guinness brewery. Now a historic landmark, Roe's operation covered nearly 17 acres of ground.

Currently, Roe & Co is available in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. and one of several major brands, including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit and Buchanan's whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness, distributed by Diageo.

The distillery is located at 92 James's Street in Dublin, Ireland where tours and tasting events are held Thursday through Saturday from 3p-8p.

Free technology training program offered by UIUC Research Park

The University of Illinois Research Park and American Family Insurance have partnered together to create a free part-time technology training program for people looking to expand their knowlegde or migrate to a more technology based career.

ILLINOIS REBOOT is a coding pre-academy that will introduce students to fundamental skills needed in programming and database management. Participants will gain a strong foundation in data science literacy while being introduced to UNIX, SQL, Python, GitHub, and Agile project management principles.

The training, which starts in February, will be taught in two-hour blocks. There are eight required classes and four elective courses incorporated in the program which runs through March 9.

Upon successful completion of curriculum and program requirements, participants will be awarded a University of Illinois Research Park Tech Badge certificate.

No previous programming experience is necessary. Participant must have access to an Internet-capable computer with a major operating system and reliable WiFi. For those without access to reliable connection, EnterpriseWorks incubator will also be an option for onsite use for participants who need dedicated service. Tablets, phones and other mobile or smart devices are not usable for completing assignments.

Participant in the program must also have the ability to download and install software on the workstation. While programming skills are not required, a technical aptitude or experience working with digital or computer technology is recommended.

For more information prospective student can email Rebecca Motley at To apply for the program, complete the online application located here no later than January 13, 2021.

Photo of the Day - December 23, 2020

Henry Dust runs at the 2007 cross country sectional

Rockets qualify for state

Unity's Henry Dust [496] runs ahead of Monticello's Josh Clark through a muddy section of the course at the IHSA Cross Country sectional competition at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School on Saturday, October 27, 2007. The senior finished the rain soaked course in 17 minutes, 12 seconds. Dust's 38th place overall finished helped the Rockets' cross country team qualify for the Class 1A state championship race for the first time since the 2000 season after their 5th place team finish.

Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks

Village Crier: December 23, 2020

Area roundup for St. Joseph, Ogden, Royal, Philo, Sidney & Tolono

Dairy Barn pick up December 28

The Sidney Dairy Barn online shop is open for business at While the location is closed for indoor dining, new online orders will be available on Monday, December 28, from 3-6pm. Tire Swings, Tornado home kits, freezes, shakes and more are available.

Go-Fund-Me to help April set up

Subway manager Adam Porter created a GoFundMe page for assistant manager April Patton, who suffered a stroke last week.

"I started this campaign because I know she is going to miss a lot of work and I wanted to try to relieve some of the stress financially," Porter said. "I hope that we are able to help reduce some of her stress and help out her family."

Contributions and donation to help the mother of three while she is unable to work and for medical expenses can be made here: April Patton GoFundMe.

Lil Buford's Wednesday's special

Today's special is a breaded or grilled tenderloins with hand cut fries at the 102 N Long location in Tolono. Meals are available for dine in or carry out. Call for more information at 217-485-5500.

Tolono garbage pick-up will run as scheduled

Chris' Service Company be picking up on Friday, Christmas Day, as normal. For more route information call (217) 684-2465.

RC Fest set for next summer

RC FEST: CREATORS OF CHAOS will be held at Tolono's East Side Park July 31 through August 1. The event features radio controlled car races to raise awareness for donating blood. All proceeds goes to Community Blood Services of Illinois.

2020 was the tenth year of the event created by Tolono resident Adam Munds.

"I got the idea because there was a need for a RC event and I needed platelets when I was born. So blood donation was very close to me," Munds said.

Munds' event this year had 186 entries. With competitors coming from Detroit, Michigan and North Carolina. He said he is expecting teams from Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Dakota to take part in this summer's fest.

Mean Mugz Bar & Grill offering spicy deal

Mean Mugz at 121 Sout East Ave in Ogden has a hearty Po'Boy meal deal for today and tomorrow, December 24. Order a Classic or Cajun burger, a chicken or steak Philly sandwich, or a catfish and a 64oz Rigg's Growler-to-Go for just $20. Call (217) 582-8029 to order for carryout or more information.

Health permits suspended

Permits for two Sentinel area eateries were suspended by Champaign County public health officials for operating in defiance of the state's pandemic mitigation efforts. Lil Buford’s at 102 N. Long in Tolono, and Billy Bob’s at 105 E. Broadway in Ogden join Merry-Ann’s Dinner in Champaign; the American Legion Post 71 in Urbana; Apple Dumplin’ at 2014 N. High Cross Road, U; Not Too Far Bar at 203 Chapin St., Ivesdale; and Red Wheel restaurant at 741 Broadmeadow in Rantoul on a list of county bar and restaurant operations cited for continuing indoor service despite warnings multiple warnings.

Philo Tav announces holiday hours

The Philo Tavern will be closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas but reopen for normal business hours on Saturday.

According to their Facebook page "... due to COVID and public health regulations, we are unable to provide our usual Christmas Eve special of free fried chicken. This was hard for us to do, as this year is the year that our customers deserve THE MOST appreciation for all you’ve done for us."

"We know that without you, we wouldn’t exist and for that, we sincerely thank all of you and wish you all to have a fun and safe holiday!"

SJCOC to hold Christmas Eve services

The St. Joseph Church of Christ host Christmas Eve services at 4:00p, 6:00p, and 11:00p. Each serivce will include a candlelight ceremony in the service. Masks are strongly encouraged, especially as you are making your way to your seat, and seating will be at recommended social distance. The 4:00p service is almost full, according to the latest post on Facebook. There is still ample space in the 6:00p and 11:00p services. The 6:00 services will be live streamed. Interested worshipers can find the link on the SJCOC Facebook page.

Subway manager starts GoFundMe campaign to help employee

Last Thursday while at work April Patton didn't feel well. Despite the pain and discomfort, she finished her shift and continued to work several more days at the Subway located on 220 East Warren in St. Joseph before seeking medical attention. According to store manager Adam Porter, it was then she was informed that she had suffered a stroke on December 17.

With Christmas just around the corner and learning that she would not be able to return to work until the doctors find out why the nine-year veteran at the sandwich shop suffered the medical episode, Porter started an effort to help the mother of three financially.

April Patton GoFundMe Page
"We, as a team, decided to donate all of our tips to her from this pay period, which ended up being around $250 for her," Porter said, who learned during the interview that Patton won’t be able to work for over a month according to her doctors. "She’s really great to work with because she is super hard working, she does everything perfectly and puts effort into all aspects of the job. She’s such a caring person who wants the best for everyone and always has a positive attitude."

Porter, who started managing the St. Joseph location five months ago, has known Patton for three years. He said she and two of her children, who also work at Subway, are like family to him.

Realizing his star employee will be overwhelmed with medical expenses, he decided to create a GoFundMe campaign to help Patton and her family.

"I started this campaign because I know she is going to miss a lot of work and I wanted to try to relieve some of the stress financially," Porter said. "I hope that we are able to help reduce some of her stress and help out her family."

In his campaign pitch he wrote: "She is a great employee and deserves the world and every little donation helps. The doctors are still running more tests to try to figure out what exactly happened. She can’t work while she is in the hospital, and I wish she can focus on her recovery rather than financial issues since she will be out of work for a period of time that is not yet known."

In less than 24 hours the campaign has received $360 of the $3,000 goal. Residents and customers who would like to contribute to the fund or would like more information can follow this like to the GoFundMe campaign.

Editorial: Governor needs to drop mitigation regions

Group projects. I detested them in college. Why? Because 90% of the time your group is held back by one or two folks on the team with their own agenda or are just annoyingly uncooperative.

When Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the regions for his resurgence mitigation plan, I knew us folks in Champaign County were getting the short end of the stick, much like in group projects in school. County government leaders should have voiced their disapproval being lumped into Region 6 with areas of the state - much like those students in your group who don't do their part to ensure that A for the assignment or project - in the governor's plan.

We are far enough along in the pandemic to understand how the spread works and it is high time the governor dismantle the regional set up he created. He and the Illinois Department of Public Health need to migrate his mitigation from a regional basis to a county by county level.

As of today, our county 7-day rolling positivity without the University of Illinois' saliva test is at 6.1%, well below the 8% rate that would put us back to Tier 4. If you factor in the university's test, Champaign County is at an impressive 1.7%.

Thanks to being lumped in with Iroquois, Ford, Vermillion, Macon, Moultrie, Douglas, Edgar, Shelby, Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Fayette, Effingham, Jasper, Clay, Richland and Lawrence counties, as a region we are 3 points higher at 9.1.

In our group Crawford, DeWitt, Macon and Piatt, all with their 7-day positivity 6% or lower, are doing their part to help move us back to less restrictive mitigation measures. The good kids, those four counties plus Champaign, are being punished for all the bad kids in the group.

Who are the bad kids? Let's see, there is Cumberland County leading the way at 18.3% - actually surprised it is not Clay County, but that's another story - and four others in the thirteens, more than twice that of good kids on our corner of the state. Edgar and Vermilion counties' positivity is 13.6%, while Effingham and Richland are trending at 13.4%.

Champaign County should be back to Tier 1, Tier 2 at the very least. Residents in the county, many reluctantly, have done their part.

Switching to an individual county positivity measure would not only reward residents for the vigilance and efforts in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in their communities, it would help kickstart the economy in many areas of the state, get people back to work and help motivated poorly performing counties make a great effort into complying with the state's mandates. Restaurants could return to limit indoor seating and sport teams could start training together for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. We could go back to small group events and more. After all, we earned the privilege.

Just as importantly, the state wins, too. With restaurants and bars open, it will benefit from the tax revenue, fewer unemployment claims and can focus enforcement of mitigation mandates on underperforming counties.

Dear Governor Pritzker, let some of the people in Region 6 go.

Photo of the Day - December 22, 2020

Jennifer Pridemore reacts

Rockets score!

Jennifer Pridemore (center) reacts with hundreds of other Unity fans on a Chuck Krause to Andy Eisenmenger touchdown pass that put the Rockets within two points of a victory on the road in November 2002. The two-point conversion attempt on the next play failed giving St. Teresa a 10-9 playoff victory. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Share your Christmas spirit with others this season

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

Years ago, our church group was out Christmas caroling. We weren't far from the church and our leader led us out to the back of Mr. Castle's house to sing to he and his wife. His wife came to the door and greeted us with a smile and was gracious.

We sang to her when suddenly through the window we saw her husband appear in the family room with a big towel around his body. He obviously had just gotten out of the shower. He came into his family room unknowing that 20 carolers had all eyes on him. Several of the women began to chuckle. I just knew we were all about to see something we had not planned on.

Sitting down on his sofa he put his feet up and was preparing to relax. The volume of laughter from a couple of his adult friends grew louder when Mr. Castle looked up and saw us. He immediately made an "Oh no" expression while shaking his head a bit and jumped up and departed to another part of the house.

We sang to his sweet wife and moved on down the street with a new visual that I still remember to this day. I'll always remember what a good spirit he and his wife had and that we all left feeling uplifted by them.

This week I walked to the back of a local nursing home to look through a window to see a friend. Ms. Southard is 99.

My wife and I visited in her home recently. She was agile, mentally sharp and dancing around like she always does. Her attitude always lifts us up. She did say on that very day we were there, "I don't want to end up in a nursing home. I told my son I don't ever want to be in one."

Two weeks later while closing her curtains she made an awkward step, fell and broke her leg. Surgery was required and also rehabilitation. Her insurance plan would not pay for her to go to the local rehabilitation hospital but instead put her where she never wanted to be, a nursing home.

I found out from a nurse which room she was in and how to find the right window to look through. The nurse said she would meet me at the window and let Ms. Southard know I was there. I dreaded what I might see but wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas. Knocking on the window I was delighted that she was sitting up and started laughing and waving at me. We exchanged Merry Christmas the best we could yelling through a window. While I almost wanted to cry seeing her there, I was so encouraged by her good spirit.

The spirit of Christmas is inside you. This spirit is greater than you and I and pulls us through the awkward and the very difficult times of life.

The Christmas season we celebrate is one of hope and celebration. The story of Jesus is the story of God's hope coming to us in the little baby a long time ago.

2020 has certainly been a year we've needed hope. Vaccines for Covid-19 are coming and 2021 is going to be a better year.

May your spirit be rekindled. Share your spirit with others and may the year ahead be one of the best ever for us all.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Photo of the Day - December 21, 2020

Cat (Foreman) Hesterberg goes up for a shot
SJO's Cat Foreman takes a shot over Tuscola's Rachael Buckner in the second half of their non-conference game on January 5, 2008. Foreman, who was unstoppable that Saturday afternoon, drained a career-high 20 points. Despite her also game-high effort, the Warriors squeaked by St. Joseph-Ogden on the Spartans' home court to a 67-63 win. (Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day - December 20, 2020

Unity's Nate Lewis shrugs off Decatur St. Teresa's tacklers

Rockets fall in road playoff game

Unity's Nate Lewis (15) shrugs off Decatur St. Teresa's tacklers Ryan McShea (6) and Mike Kormelink (15) in second round IHSA football playoff game in Decatur. The Dawgs beat the visiting Rockets 10-9 back in November of 2002. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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