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Photo-of-the-Day: December 31, 2021

Plenty of team spirit
(Left to right) Unity's Reagan Little, Ruby Tarr, Julia Ping, and Jayci Mcgraw cheer from the bench after a point for the Rockets during their conference home match against Monticello on October 28. In a fierce battle for another victory against the Sages, Unity, who won an earlier match between the two rivals on the road 25-19, 25-16, lost the three-setter, 2-1. See more photos from this game.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 31, 2021

The county will close out the year with a record number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District reports there are currently 44 individuals under doctors care in ICU.

Today's public health data shows 271 new cases identified in The Sentinel area in the past 24 hours. Of the number, 224 were from Urbana residents, 15 in St. Joseph, and 15 new cases in Tolono. Ogden, Sidney, Sadorus, and Pesotum saw a combined increase of 17 new cases in the four villages.


Active Champaign County Cases:

4,445

Net change in the county: 477



Current local cases 12/31/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/30/21

Ogden • 31 (6)
Royal • 3 (0)
St. Joseph • 140 (15)
Urbana • 1550 (224)
Sidney • 30 (3)
Philo • 36 (5)
Tolono • 110 (15)
Sadorus • 14 (1)
Pesotum • 14 (2)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,928

Net change in local cases: 212



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 14,753

New cases: 271


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 30, 2021

The number of active Covid cases rose by 612 patients out 3,841 tests that were performed in the last 24 hours. The five-day moving average number of cases identified as positive has risen to 195 per day.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District reports that 63.26% of the county's population has been fully vaccinated. Almost 70% of county residents have received at least one dose of the three available shots. More than 72% of Illinois' population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and more than 64% of Illinois’ total population is fully vaccinated according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Carle Foundation Hospital reports 138 Covid-19 patients are currently under care at their facility. Ninteen of those individuals are in the ICU.


Active Champaign County Cases:

3,968

Net change in the county: 612



Current local cases 12/30/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/29/21

Ogden • 26 (3)
Royal • 3 (0)
St. Joseph • 128 (17)
Urbana • 1376 (277)
Sidney • 29 (3)
Philo • 31 (6)
Tolono • 97 (21)
Sadorus • 14 (5)
Pesotum • 12 (1)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,716

Net change in local cases: 260



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 14,482

New cases: 333


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Photo-of-the-day: December 30, 2021

Louis Acklin lifts teammate Nate Michael into the air.
SJO headed to state!
St. Joseph-Ogden's Louis Acklin lifts teammate Nate Michael into the air after the Spartans (29-3) carved out a 59-47 win over the Riverton Hawks for the 2013 Supersectional title. The SJO basketball team punched their ticket to state in front of a near-capacity crowd at the 3,000 seat Recreation and Athletic Center on the University of Illinois-Springfield campus. A first-time state qualifier in basketball, the team advanced to Class 2A state semifinal game at the Peoria Civic Center against 31-1 Harrisburg. See more photos from this game.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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Food: Tempt guests with this Apple Oat Crumble treat

(Family Features) -- Entertaining guests during the holidays isn't just about a main course that calls all to the table. What often makes a festive gathering more fruitful is a spread of delicious appetizers, delightful drinks and divine desserts that keeps everyone coming back to the kitchen for more.

Photo provided
For appetizing dishes from the first guest at the house to the last out the door, you can heighten the flavor and appearance of favorite recipes with one simple ingredient: apples. Ranging from tart to sugary sweet, finding the right balance for your palate is key. Scent can also influence taste, especially when you have a balanced sweetness with an uplifting, fresh aroma.

Turn to an option like Envy Apples this holiday season for satisfying texture and taste with a consistently balanced, refreshing sweetness coupled with a crisp, elegant crunch. They make for an easy snack when eaten fresh out of hand but are also perfect for holding over pre-dinner appetites in small plates like Bell-Issimo Brie Melt or Apple Stuffing Bites with Rosemary Gravy.

The versatile flavor of apples isn't just limited to foods, however. For the adults in the room, Pumpkin Spice Apple Cider with a splash of bourbon is a seasonally appropriate way to quench thirst and break the ice. Simply omit the bourbon for a kid-friendly version so the whole party can savor a sip.

Easy to spot with their crimson red skin over a golden background that practically glows, Envy Apples offer an easy, eye-catching way to try new tastes and celebrate joyful occasions together. The bright white flesh is naturally slow to brown when sliced for a fresher flavor in sweet treats like Apple Oat Crumble and Citrus Caramel Topping for a tasty way to elevate your holiday get-togethers.

Find more sweet holiday recipes at EnvyApple.com.


Apple Oat Crumble and Citrus Caramel Topping

3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Envy Apples, diced into large cubes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup cold butter, diced small
1/2 cup caramel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 orange, zest only
1 tablespoon orange juice
vanilla ice cream


Preheat oven to 350 F.

In bowl, stir together sugar and ground cinnamon.

Toss apples in lemon juice then in cinnamon sugar mixture. Spread in 9-inch pie dish.

In another bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and oats. Using hands or fork, cut in butter until pea size crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake 40-45 minutes until mixture is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes.

In small pot, whisk caramel, salt, orange zest and orange juice until warm.

Spoon apple oat crumble over large scoop vanilla ice cream and top with salted citrus caramel.

St. Joseph library to host books sale starting January 3

St. Joseph -- Next Monday, the St. Joseph Township-Swearingen Memorial Library, located at 201 N. Third in St. Joseph, will host their Winter Used Book Sale through January 27.

Buyers can choose from a variety of titles from adult fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, and science fiction to fantasy, horror, romance novels, adventure, cookbooks, and more. There will also be a selection of children’s fiction, non-fiction, and picture books available. A limited supply of DVDs, videos, music CDs, audiobooks, and large-print books will also be included in the sale.

The sale will run during normal library hours, which are: Mondays 1p to 8p; Tuesdays 9a to 6p; Wednesdays 1p to 6p; Thursdays 9a to 6p; Fridays 9a to 5 p; and Saturdays 9a to 1p.

For more information call (217) 469-2159.

Photo-of-the-Day: December 29, 2021

St. Joseph-Ogden's Peyton Crowe hugs teammate Bree Trimble
Third best in the state
St. Joseph-Ogden's Peyton Crowe hugs teammate Bree Trimble after their Class 2A third place victory over Hillsboro at the IHSA Girls Basketball State Finals in Normal on February 23, 2019. The Spartans led by as much as 26 points on their way to the program's best finish in school history. Crowe scored 13 points in the win, while Trimble put a team-high 28 points on the board. SJO ended the season with just one loss after the 68-53 win on Saturday. See more photos from this game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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Debunking the myths about gout


When many people think of gout, they often picture swelling and pain in the big toe. However, gout - an extremely painful form of inflammatory arthritis - can occur in any joint when high levels of uric acid in the blood lead to the formation of urate crystals.

If your body creates too much uric acid or cannot clear uric acid properly, you may experience sudden and sometimes severe gout attacks, called flare-ups, that include pain, swelling or redness in your joints. The condition can disrupt many aspects of daily living, including work and leisure or family activities.

"I was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2009 and it wasn't too long after that I started dealing with gout issues," said registered nurse Theresa Caldron. "Gout affects your quality of life in a lot of different ways. You're going through days of pain and no one knows it because you don't look sick."

Because the kidneys filter and release uric acid, people with kidney disease are more likely to experience a buildup of urate crystals and, therefore, gout. In fact, 1 out of 10 people with chronic kidney disease have gout, and an even higher percentage of people with gout have kidney disease.

To help debunk some myths around the condition, the American Kidney Fund, in partnership with Horizon Therapeutics, created the "Goutful" education campaign, which aims to educate and empower patients with gout to help them live easier and prevent further health complications, especially relating to their kidneys. Consider these common myths:

Myth: Gout is rare.
Gout is a relatively common condition. More than 8 million Americans have gout, and it is the most common form of arthritis in men over 40.

Myth: Gout is a man's disease.
Anyone can get gout, but it's more common in men than women. Though men are 10 times more likely to develop gout, rates of gout even out after age 60 since gout tends to develop for women after menopause.

Myth: Only people who are obese get gout.
People of all sizes can develop gout. Though people who are obese are at higher risk, gout is more common in people who have other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or kidney disease. Others more at-risk for gout are males 30-50 years old, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Black people, people with a family history of gout, people with organ transplants and people exposed to lead.

Myth: Gout eventually goes away on its own.
Symptoms of gout attacks often go away within a few days, but that doesn't mean gout is gone. Even if you don't feel symptoms, urate crystals can build up beneath the surface, which can cause long-term health problems like joint and kidney damage.

Myth: There are things you can eat to prevent or cure gout.
Certain foods may help decrease the level of uric acid in your body, but diet alone is not a cure for gout. People with gout who follow healthy diets may still need medicine to prevent flare-ups and lower uric acid levels. Alcohol and foods rich in purines, especially red meat and seafood, should be avoided if you are prone to gout.

If you think you might have gout, talk with your doctor or a gout specialist about your symptoms. Visit kidneyfund.org/gout to learn more about gout and kidney disease.

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 29, 2021

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District reported three additional Covid-relate deaths on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the number of active reported cases for the county has soared to 3,356 and to 1,456 for the communities The Sentinel covers. Both numbers reflect the largest number of current infections since the start of the pandemic.


Active Champaign County Cases:

3,356

Net change in the county: 371



Current local cases 12/29/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/28/21

Ogden • 24 (3)
Royal • 3 (1)
St. Joseph • 116 (11)
Urbana • 1153 (214)
Sidney • 29 (11)
Philo • 27 (7)
Tolono • 82 (21)
Sadorus • 10 (1)
Pesotum • 12 (2)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,456

Net change in local cases: 192



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 14,149

New cases: 271


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Photo-of-the-Day: December 28, 2021

Audrey Hancock runs at the 2018 state XC
Unity takes third at state XC meet
Tolono Unity's Audrey Hancock runs at the 2018 Illinois High School Association Cross Country State Finals on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The junior finished her race in 53rd place overall, 35th in the race for team points, at 18:49.39. The Rockets' tallied 130 points to earn a third-place finish behind Eureka (first) and Rock Falls (second) at the season finale in Peoria. See more photos from this game.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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Starting in 2022, new law banning discrimination based on hairstyle in Illinois schools

Photo: Hussein Altameemi/Pexels


Starting Jan. 1, a new law goes into effect banning hair discrimination in Illinois schools.

Studies have shown one in five Black women working in office or sales settings said they had to alter their natural hair at work to feel accepted, and Black students are far more likely to be suspended for dress-code or hair violations.

Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, introduced the legislation and noted it will be against the law to tell any kid in any Illinois school they cannot wear their hair in the ways traditionally associated with race and ethnicity.

"This is especially relevant for Black youth, Black children," Simmons explained. "You're not going to be able to send Black kids home and say you can't have dreadlocks, you can't have braids, you can't have twists. All of that is over in Illinois."

The bill is known as the Jett Hawkins Act, after a four-year-old boy whose mother was spurred to action when he was asked to take out his braids when he went to school. Illinois joins 13 other states which have passed similar bills, some also extending protections to the workplace as well.

Simmons hopes more states and the federal government will take up legislation to protect against hair discrimination.

"Something as natural as one's hair has absolutely nothing to do with learning," Simmons asserted. "And so we want to make sure that schools are completely focused on learning, creativity, healing, and not these other things that are rooted in a very discriminatory past."

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial discrimination, but federal court precedent only protects people who wear their hair in Afros, and not other natural hairstyles.

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 28, 2021


Active Champaign County Cases:

2,985

Net change in the county: 384



Current local cases 12/28/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/27/21

Ogden • 23 (6)
Royal • 2 (0)
St. Joseph • 110 (27)
Urbana • 993 (224)
Sidney • 23 (3)
Philo • 23 (6)
Tolono • 69 (13)
Sadorus • 9 (1)
Pesotum • 12 (0)


Total Active Local Cases:

1264

Net change in local cases: 176



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 13,878

New cases: 280


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

CDC relaxes COVID isolation protocols

Earlier today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a recommendation that individuals who exhibit no symptoms after testing positive for Covid-19 need only to isolate for five days instead of the previously recommended 10 days.

The CDC justified the new guidance in a press release. "Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious."

The change comes on the heals of a plea from the airline and healthcare industries who are experiencing labor shortages due to employees having to observe isolation guidelines.

Press release from the CDC:

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 27, 2021


Active Champaign County Cases:

2,601

Net change in the county: -107



Current local cases 12/27/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/26/21

Ogden • 22 (0)
Royal • 2 (0)
St. Joseph • 95 (3)
Urbana • 844 (34)
Sidney • 22 (2)
Philo • 18 (1)
Tolono • 63 (3)
Sadorus • 10 (0)
Pesotum • 12 (0)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,088

Net change in local cases: -42



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 13,598

New cases: 43


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Photo-of-the-day: December 27, 2021

Jan Ondrejcek dribbles the ball
Illinek soccer team notches shutout
Uni-High's Jan Ondrejcek dribbles the ball down the field during his team's home game against Calvary Christian Academy on September 18, 2017. The Illineks routed the visiting Knights, 8-0. See more photos from this game.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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This week at Urbana's Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl Tavern is the quintessential and longest-running entertainment hotspot in downtown Urbana. Open since 1946 and under new ownership since 2019, the bar now offers live shows across several genres. While you may catch a country or Bluegrass performance a couple of times a week, the Rose Bowl now offers regular jazz shows, jam sessions and a comedy open mike night. Located at 106 N Race Street, there's plenty of free parking after 5pm in the city lot just outside the side entrance on the north side of the building.

Here's this week's live entertainment line-up:

For more information on upcoming shows, special hours and promotions, visit their website at www.rosebowltavern.com and on Facebook at @RoseBowlTavern.

Guest Commentary: Time rarely stands still

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator


The year 2022 will be over almost quicker than you can say Happy New Year! Just look how fast 2021 sped by us all.

Time rarely feels as if it's standing still unless we are waiting on something to happen. Time only drags when we need something to happen like a cure for a disease, a job to open or a relative to come home. When time drags, we make the mistake of wishing it away.

We only have a little bit of time. We all have the same in a day, a week or a year. Every year that we live we are extended the same number of days and minutes. We do all kinds of things with time. We waste time, kill time, try to make up time, lose track of time or don't pay attention to time. Regardless of how we treat time it's only doing one thing moving swiftly through the hourglass one grain or second at a time.

I'm thankful for time. I'm grateful for time with my wife and each family member. I'm grateful for this moment to sit here and type a few words out on my keyboard. I suppose one of my problems is how do I fit all I want to do into my time? I guess I enjoy doing too much. If I only enjoyed doing one or two things then my time spent might be a little easier. Each day and moment I would simply devote my full attention to one particular aspect of life.

Actually, that might not be a bad idea.

Could I devote 24 hours a day to my family? I could, but they really don't want me in their hair 24/7. I could devote 24 hours a day to prayer and reading the Bible or reading other good books. But then, I don't want to be an isolated religious person who never enjoys this incredible world or people. I could devote 24 hours a day to my educational work and do a lot of the work that others do. However, institutions are stronger and better when the work is spread around to others. I could spend more time simply writing books or pursuing other hobbies I enjoy.

Somehow, we have to determine what is best. I heard about this farmer who hired a man to sort potatoes. The man's job was to put the bad potatoes in one pile, the good potatoes in another pile and the best potatoes in another pile. The man agreed to the job.

At the end of the day the farmer came to see how his new employee was doing and he had not done anything. He was simply standing looking back and forth at two potatoes.

The farmer bewildered asked, "Why haven't you done what I asked you to do?"

The hired man responded, "I just can't decide between the good and the best potatoes."

Our dilemma in 2022 may not be in deciding between good and bad but between good and best. There are a lot of good things we can do with our time in 2022. Using our time to do the best things may be our most difficult decision.


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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.

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This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers. Submit your letters to the editor or commentary on a current event 24/7 to editor@oursentinel.com.


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Government oversight was in short supply as patients become infected with Covid at hospitals

by Lauren Weber and Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News

One by one, the nurses taking care of actress Judi Evans at Riverside Community Hospital kept calling out sick.

Patients were coughing as staffers wheeled the maskless soap opera star around the California hospital while treating her for injuries from a horseback fall in May 2020, Evans said.



Hospitals, like Riverside, with high rates of covid patients who didn’t have the diagnosis when they were admitted have rarely been held accountable due to multiple gaps in government oversight, a KHN investigation has found.


She remembered they took her to a room to remove blood from her compressed lung where another maskless patient was also getting his lung drained. He was crying out that he didn’t want to die of covid.

No one had told her to wear a mask, she said. “It didn’t cross my mind, as I’m in a hospital where you’re supposed to be safe.”

Then, about a week into her hospital stay, she tested positive for covid-19. It left the 57-year-old hospitalized for a month, staring down more than $1 million in bills for treatment costs and suffering from debilitating long-haul symptoms, she said.

Hospitals, like Riverside, with high rates of covid patients who didn’t have the diagnosis when they were admitted have rarely been held accountable due to multiple gaps in government oversight, a KHN investigation has found.

While a federal reporting system closely tracks hospital-acquired infections for MRSA and other bugs, it doesn’t publicly report covid caught in individual hospitals.

Health News on The Sentinel

Medicare officials, tapped by Congress decades ago to ensure quality care in hospitals, also discovered a gaping hole in their authority as covid spread through the nation. They could not force private accreditors — which almost 90% of hospitals pay for oversight — to do targeted infection-control inspections. That means Riverside and nearly 4,200 other hospitals did not receive those specific covid-focused inspections, according to a government watchdog report, even though Medicare asked accreditors to do them in March 2020.

Seema Verma, former chief of Medicare and Medicaid under President Donald Trump, said government inspectors went into nearly every nursing home last year. That the same couldn’t be done for hospitals reveals a problem. “We didn’t have the authority,” she told KHN. “This is something to be corrected.”

KHN previously reported that at least 10,000 patients nationwide were diagnosed with covid in hospitals last year after being admitted for something else — a sure undercount of the infection’s spread inside hospitals, since that data analysis primarily includes Medicare patients 65 and older.

Nationally, 1.7% of Medicare inpatients were documented as having covid diagnosed after being admitted for another condition, according to data from April through September 2020 that hospitals reported to Medicare. CDIMD, a Nashville-based consulting and data analytics company, analyzed the data for KHN.

At Riverside Community Hospital, 4% of the covid Medicare patients were diagnosed after admission — more than double the national average. At 38 other hospitals, that rate was 5% or higher. All those hospitals are approved by private accreditors, and 29 of them hold “The Gold Seal of Approval” from their accreditor.

To be sure, the data has limitations: It represents a difficult time in the pandemic, when protective gear and tests were scarce and vaccines were not yet available. And it could include community-acquired cases that were slow to show up. But hospital-employed medical coders decide whether a case of covid was present on admission based on doctors’ notes, and are trained to query doctors if it’s unclear. Some institutions fared better than others — while the American public was left in the dark.

Spurred by serious complaints, federal inspectors found infection-control issues in few of those 38 hospitals last year. In Michigan, inspectors reported that one hospital “failed to provide and maintain a sanitary environment resulting in the potential for the spread of infectious disease to 151 served by the facility.” In Rhode Island, inspectors found a hospital “​​failed to have an effective hospital-wide program for the surveillance and prevention” of covid.

KHN was able to find federal inspection reports documenting infection-control issues for eight of those 38 hospitals. The other 30 hospitals around the country, from Alabama to Arizona, had no publicly available federal records of infection-control problems in 2020.

KHN found that even when state inspectors in California assessed hospitals with high rates of covid diagnosed after admission, they identified few shortcomings.

“The American public thinks someone is watching over them,” said Lisa McGiffert, co-founder of the Patient Safety Action Network, an advocacy group. “Generally they think someone’s in charge and going to make sure bad things don’t happen. Our oversight system in our country is so broken and so untrustworthy.”

The data shows that the problem has deadly consequences: About a fifth of the Medicare covid patients who were diagnosed after admission died. And it was costly as well. In California alone, the total hospital charges for such patients from April through December last year was over $845 million, according to an analysis done for KHN by the California Department of Health Care Access and Information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pledged funding for increased infection-control efforts — but that money is not focused on tracking covid’s spread in hospitals. Instead, it will spend $2.1 billion partly to support an existing tracking system for hospital-acquired pathogens such as MRSA and C. diff.

The CDC does not currently track hospital-acquired covid, nor does it plan to do so with the additional funding. That tracking is done by another part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for the CDC’s health care-associated infection-prevention programs. But it’s not made public on a hospital-by-hospital basis. HHS officials did not respond to questions.

The Scene at Riverside

In March 2020, Evans was alarmed by nonstop TV footage of covid deaths, so she and her husband locked down. They hadn’t been going out much, anyway, since losing their only child at the end of 2019 to another public health crisis — fentanyl.

At the time, concerns about covid were mounting among the staff at Riverside Community Hospital, a for-profit HCA Healthcare facility.

The hospital’s highly protective N95 masks had been pulled off the supply room shelves and put in a central office, according to Monique Hernandez, a shop steward for her union, Service Employees International Union Local 121RN. Only nurses who had patients getting aerosol-generating procedures such as intubation — which were believed at the time to spread the virus — could get one, she said.

She said that practice left the nurses on her unit with a difficult choice: either say you had a patient undergoing such procedures or risk getting sick.

Nurse unions were early adopters of the notion — now widely accepted — that covid is spread by minuscule particles that can linger in the air. Studies since have matched the genetic fingerprint of the virus to show that covid has spread among workers or patients wearing surgical masks instead of more protective masks like N95s.

On April 22, 2020, Hernandez and other nurses joined a silent protest outside the hospital where they held up signs saying “PPE Over Profit.” By that time, the hospital had several staff clusters of infection, according to Hernandez, and she was tired of caregivers being at risk.

In a statement, Riverside spokesperson David Maxfield said the hospital’s top priority has been to protect staff “so they can best care for our patients.”

“Any suggestion otherwise ignores the extensive work, planning and training we have done to ensure the delivery of high-quality care during this pandemic,” he said.

In mid-May, Judi Evans’ husband coaxed her into going horseback riding — one of the few things that brought her joy after her son’s death. On her second day back in the saddle, she was thrown from her horse. She broke her collarbone and seven ribs, and her lung was compressed. She was taken to Riverside Community Hospital.

There, many of her nurses wore masks they had previously used, Evans recalled. Other staffers came in without any masks at all, she said. A few days in, she said, one of the doctors told her it’s crazy that the hospital was testing her for MRSA and other hospital infections but not covid.

Maxfield said that the hospital began enforcing a universal mask mandate for staff and visitors on March 31, 2020, and, “in line with CDC, patients were and are advised to wear masks when outside their room if tolerated.” He stressed “safety of our patients and colleagues has been our top priority.”

After about a week in the hospital, Evans said, she spiked a fever and begged for a covid test. It was positive. There is no way to know for certain where or how she got infected but she believes it was at Riverside. Covid infections can take two to 14 days from exposure to show symptoms like a fever, with the average being four to five days. According to CDC guidance, infection onset that occurs two days or more after admission could be “hospital-associated.”

Doctors told her they might have to amputate her legs when they began to swell uncontrollably, she said.

“It was like being in a horror film — one of those where everything that could go wrong does go wrong,” Evans said.

She left with over $1 million in bills from a month-long stay — and her legs, thankfully. She said she still suffers from long-covid symptoms and is haunted by the screams of fellow patients in the covid ward.

By the end of that year, Riverside Community Hospital would report that 58 of its 1,649 covid patients were diagnosed with the virus after admission, according to state data that covers all payers from April to December.

That’s nearly three times as high as the California average for covid cases not present on admission, according to the analysis for KHN by California health data officials.

“Based on contact tracing, outlined by the CDC and other infectious disease experts, there is no evidence to suggest the risk of transmission at our hospital is different than what you would find at other hospitals,” Maxfield said.

A lawsuit filed in August by the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West on behalf of the daughter of a hospital lab assistant who died of covid and other hospital staffers says the hospital forced employees to work without adequate protective gear and while sick and “highly contagious.”

The hospital “created an unnecessarily dangerous work environment,” the lawsuit claims, “which in turn has created dangerous conditions for patients” and a “public nuisance.”

Attorneys for Riverside Community Hospital are fighting the ongoing lawsuit. “This lawsuit is an attempt for the union to gain publicity, and we have filed a motion to end it,” said Maxfield, the hospital spokesperson.

The hospital’s lawyers have said the plaintiffs got covid during a spike in local cases and are only speculating that they contracted the virus at the hospital, according to records filed in Riverside County Superior Court.

They also said in legal filings that the court should not step into the place of “government agencies who oversee healthcare and workplace safety” and “handled the response to the pandemic.”

‘A Shortcoming in the Oversight System’

Decades ago, Congress tasked Medicare with ensuring safe, quality care in U.S. hospitals by building in routine government inspections. However, hospitals can opt to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars per year to nongovernmental accreditors entrusted by CMS to certify the hospitals as safe. So 90% do just that.

But these accrediting agencies — including the Joint Commission, which certified Riverside — are private organizations. Thus they are not required to follow CMS’ directives, including the request in a March 20 memo urging the accrediting agencies to execute targeted infection-control surveys aimed at preparing hospitals for covid’s onslaught.

And so they didn’t send staffers to survey hospitals for the specialized infection-control inspections in 2020, according to a June 2021 Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General report.

Riverside, despite allegations of lax practices, holds The Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission, which last inspected the hospital on-site in May 2018 before going in on Nov. 19 this year.

The inspector general’s office urged CMS to pursue the authority to require special surveys in a health emergency — lest it lose control of its mission to keep hospitals safe.

“CMS could not ensure that accredited hospitals would continue to provide quality care and operate safely during the COVID-19 emergency,” and could not ensure it going forward, the report said.

“We’re telling CMS to do their job,” the report’s author, Assistant Regional Inspector General Calvin Jones, said in an interview. “The covid experience really showed a shortcoming in the oversight system.”

CMS spokesperson Raymond Thorn said the agency agrees with the report’s recommendation and will work on a regulation after the public health emergency ends.

Accrediting agencies, however, pushed back on the inspector general’s findings. Among them: DNV Healthcare USA Inc. Its director of accreditation, Troy McCann, said there was not a gap in oversight. Although he said travel restrictions limited accreditors ability to fly across state lines, his group continued its annual reviews after May 2020 and incorporated the special focus on infection control into them. “We have a strong emphasis, always, on safety, infection control and emergency preparedness, which has left our hospitals stronger,” McCann said.

Angela FitzSimmons, spokesperson for the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, said that the accrediting organization’s surveys typically focus on infection control, and the group worked during the pandemic to prioritize hospitals with prior issues in the area of infection prevention.

“We did not deem it necessary to add random surveys that would occur at a cost to the hospital without just cause,” FitzSimmons said.

Maureen Lyons, a spokesperson for the Joint Commission, told KHN that, after evaluating CMS guidance, the nonprofit group decided it would incorporate the infection-control surveys into its surveys done every three years and, in the meantime, provide hospitals with the latest federal guidance on covid.

“Hospitals were operating in extremis. Thus, we collaborated closely with CMS to determine optimal strategies during this time of emergency,” she said.

The Joint Commission cited safety issues for its inspectors, who travel to the hospitals and need proper protective equipment that was running low at the time, as part of the reason for its decision.

Verma, the CMS administrator at the time, pushed back on accreditors’ travel safety concerns, saying that “narrative doesn’t quite fit because the state and CMS surveyors were going into nursing homes.”

Though Verma cautioned that hospitals were overwhelmed by the crush of covid patients, “doing these inspections may have helped hospitals bolster their infection-control practices,” she said. “Without these surveys, we really have no way of knowing.”

‘Immediate Jeopardy’

Medicare inspectors can go into a privately accredited hospital after they get a serious complaint. They found alarming circumstances when they visited some of the hospitals with high rates of covid diagnosed after a patient was admitted for another concern last year.

At Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, the July 2020 inspection report says “systemic failures left the hospital and all of its patients, staff, and visitors vulnerable to harm and possible death from COVID-19.”

In response, hospital spokesperson Sharon Boston said that “we have seen a large decrease in the spread of the virus at Levindale.”

Inspectors had declared a state of “immediate jeopardy” after they investigated a complaint and discovered an outbreak that began in April and continued through the beginning of July, with more than 120 patients and employees infected with covid. And in a unit for those with Alzheimer’s and other conditions, 20% of the 55 patients who had covid died.

The hospital moved patients whose roommates tested positive for covid to other shared rooms, “potentially exposing their new roommate,” the inspection report said. Boston said that was an “isolated” incident and the situation was corrected the next day, with new policies put in place.

The Medicare data analyzed exclusively for KHN shows that 52 of Levindale’s 64 covid hospital patients, or 81%, were diagnosed with covid after admission from April to September 2020. Boston cited different numbers over a different time period: Of 67 covid patients, 64 had what she called “hospital-acquired” covid from March to June 2020. That would be nearly 96%.

The hospital shares space with a nursing home, though, so KHN did not group it with the general short-term acute-care hospitals as part of the analysis. Levindale’s last Joint Commission on-site survey was in December 2018, resulting in The Gold Seal of Approval. It had not had its once-every-three-years survey as of Dec. 10, 2021, according to the Joint Commission’s tracking.

Boston said Levindale “quickly addressed” the issues that Medicare inspectors cited, increasing patient testing and more recently mandating staff vaccines. Since December 2020, Boston said, the facility has not had a covid patient die.

At the state level, hospital inspectors in California found few problems to cite even at hospitals where 5% or more patients were diagnosed with covid after they were admitted for another concern. Fifty-three complaints about such hospitals went to the Department of Public Health from April until the end of 2020. Only three of those complaints resulted in a finding of deficiency that facility was expected to fix.

CDPH did not respond to requests for comment.

A New Chapter

Things are better now at Riverside Community Hospital, Hernandez said. She is pleased with the current safety practices, including more protective gear and HEPA filters for covid patients’ rooms. For Hernandez, though, it all comes too late now.

“We laugh at it,” she said, “but it hurts your soul.”

Evans said she was able to negotiate her $1 million-plus hospital bills down to roughly $70,000.

Her covid aftereffects have been ongoing — she said she stopped gasping for air and reaching for her at-home oxygen tank only a few months ago. She still hasn’t been able to return to work full time, she said.

For the past year, her husband would wake up in the middle of the night to check whether her oxygen levels were dipping. Terrified of losing her, he’d slip an oxygen mask on her face, she said.

“I would walk 1,000 miles to go to another hospital,” Evans said, if she could do it all over again. “I would never step foot in that hospital again.”

Methodology

KHN requested custom analyses of Medicare, California and Florida inpatient hospital data to examine the number of covid-19 cases diagnosed after a patient’s admission.

The Medicare and Medicare Advantage data, which includes patients who are 65 and older, is from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MedPAR) file and was analyzed by CDIMD, a Nashville-based medical code consulting and data analytics firm. The data is from April 1 through Sept. 30, 2020. The data for the fourth quarter of 2020 was not yet available.

The data shows the number of inpatient Medicare hospital stays in the U.S., including the number of people diagnosed with covid-19 and the number of admissions for which the covid diagnosis was not “present on admission.” CMS considers some medical conditions that are not “present on admission” to be hospital-acquired, according to the agency. The data is for general acute-care hospitals, which may include a psychiatric floor, and not for other hospitals such as those in the Department of Veterans Affairs system or stand-alone psychiatric hospitals.

KHN requested a similar analysis from California’s Department of Health Care Access and Information of its hospital inpatient data. That data was from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, and covered patients of all ages and payer types and, in general, private psychiatric and long-term acute-care hospitals. Etienne Pracht, a University of South Florida researcher, provided the number of Florida covid patients who did not have the virus upon hospital admission for all ages and payer types at general and psychiatric hospitals from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. KHN subtracted the number of Medicare patients in the MedPAR data from the Florida and California datasets so they would not be counted twice.

To calculate the rate of hospitalized Medicare patients who tested positive for covid — and died — KHN relied on the MedPAR data for April through September. That data includes records for 6,629 seniors, 1,409 of whom, or 21%, died. California data for all ages and payer types from April through December shows a similar rate: Of 2,115 diagnosed with covid-19 after hospital admission, 435, or 21%, died. The MedPAR data was also used to calculate the national rate of 1.7%, with 6,629 of 394,939 covid patients diagnosed with the virus whose infections were deemed not present on admission, according to the CDIMD analysis of data that hospitals report to Medicare. It was also used to calculate which entities licensed as short-term acute care hospitals had 5% or more of their covid cases diagnosed within the hospital. As stated in the story, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore was not included in that list of 38 because it shares space with a nursing home and had fewer than 500 total discharges.

Data that hospitals submit to Medicare on whether an inpatient hospital diagnosis was “present on admission” is used by Medicare for payment determinations and is intended to incentivize hospitals to prevent infections during hospital care. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also uses the data to “assist in identifying quality of care issues.”

Whether covid-19 is acquired in a hospital or in the community is measured in different ways. Some nations assume the virus is hospital-acquired if it is diagnosed seven or more days after admission, while U.S. data counts cases only after 14 days.

Hospitals’ medical coders who examined patient records for the data analyzed for this KHN report focus on each physician’s admission, progress and discharge notes to determine whether covid was “present on admission.” They do not have a set number of days they look for and are trained to query physicians if the case is unclear, according to Sue Bowman, senior director of coding policy and compliance at the American Health Information Management Association.

KHN tallied the cases in which covid-19 was logged in the data as not “present on admission” to the hospital. Some covid cases are coded as “U” for having insufficient documentation to make a determination. Since Medicare and AHRQ consider the “U” to be an “N” (or not present on admission) for the purposes of payment decisions and quality indicators, KHN chose to count those cases in the grand total.

In 409 of 6,629 Medicare cases and in 70 of 2,185 California cases, the “present on admission” indicator was “U.” The Florida data did not include patients whose “present on admission” indicator was “U.” Medical coders have another code, “W,” for “clinically undetermined” cases, which consider a condition present on admission for billing or quality measures. Medical coders use the “U” (leaning toward “not present on admission”) and “W” (leaning toward “present on admission”) when there is some uncertainty about the case. KHN did not count “W” cases.

The Medicare MedPAR data includes about 2,500 U.S. hospitals that had at least a dozen covid-19 cases from April through September 2020. Of those, 1,070 reported no cases of covid diagnosed after admission for other conditions in the Medicare records. Data was suppressed due to privacy reasons for about 1,300 hospitals that had between one and 11 of such covid cases. There were 126 hospitals reporting 12 or more cases of covid that were “not present on admission” or unknown. For those, we divided the number of cases diagnosed after admission by the total number of patients with covid to arrive at the rate, as is standard in health care.

Inspection and Accreditation Analysis

To evaluate which of the 38 hospitals detailed above had federal inspection reports documenting infection-control issues, KHN searched CMS’ publicly available “2567” reports, which detail deficiencies for each hospital for 2020. For surveys listed online as “not available,” KHN requested and obtained them from CMS. KHN further asked CMS to double-check the remaining hospitals for any inspection reports that weren’t posted online. KHN also checked the Association of Health Care Journalists’ database http://www.hospitalinspections.org/ for each of the 38 hospitals for any additional reports, as well as CMS’ Quality, Certification and Oversight Reports site.

To check that each of these hospitals was accredited, KHN looked up each hospital using a site run by the Joint Commission and reached out to the accreditors DNV Healthcare USA Inc. and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care.

To tabulate infection-control complaints for hospitals at the state level in California, KHN used data available through the California Department of Public Health’s Cal Health Find Database. KHN searched the database for the hospitals that had higher than 5% of covid patients being diagnosed after admission, according to the California data, and tallied all complaints and deficiencies found involving infection control from April to December 2020.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 26, 2021


Active Champaign County Cases:

2,708

Net change in the county: -138



Current local cases 12/26/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/25/21

Ogden • 30 (2)
Royal • 3 (0)
St. Joseph • 99 (4)
Urbana • 867 (37)
Sidney • 24 (1)
Philo • 19 (2)
Tolono • 66 (1)
Sadorus • 10 (0)
Pesotum • 12 (1)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,130

Net change in local cases: -49



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 13,555

New cases: 48


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Op-Ed:
Systems Thinking doesn't work for Human-Development

by Sai Sahitya

Several measures organizations take to have employees feel better only seem to make the latter more conscious of the gap between what they know they should be doing and what the organization allows them to do.

Proponents of a paradigm of management called 'Systems Thinking' would explain this as a classic case of 'systems failure,' where good intentions ramify into negative outcomes. The proposed solutions would perhaps include such things as a systematization of workflows, the revision of job descriptions, the redressal of salaries and bonuses, the development of teams, the institution of policies to make employees feel better, etc.

This paradigm of management seems particularly effective because it provides a framework for the layperson to see the bigger picture, to think in terms of collectives, and the relationships between individuals. After all, if "people come and go; organizations stay," it only seems prudent that such things as processes, functions, and jobs ought to be developed in lieu of the people.

I think, however, that what is seen as right from the system's perspective is wrong from the human perspective. It's a syzygy of sorts, and it's particularly what makes it effective on the one hand that renders it ineffectual on the other, viz., concerning individuals in relation not to others but themselves. My stance, if we're to address such things as low morale, high attrition, etc., is that we ought to develop the people.

How might we do that? Victor Frankl, in his work The Unheard Cry for Meaning observed astutely, "The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Even more people today have the means to live but no meaning to live for." Perhaps Systems Thinking would benefit from such things as the Gaia hypothesis or Tolstoy's 'Forces of history.' From the latter two, we can justify that society has gradually massified over the past few centuries, thereby devaluing the individual. Consummate that with the fact that Nature, of which the individual is but a part, always tends to equilibrium, and it's obvious why the new generation of millennials are lambasted for their egocentricity and disloyalty—one who is disloyal to others is also disloyal to themselves

If we're to improve the performance of people in an organization, therefore, the whole matter of people-development needs to be oriented primarily toward the person, and not primarily toward the organization… Develop people, not jobs. We've been approaching the development of people by trying to develop teams.

"To build a successful team, you don't start out with people—you start out the job. You ask: What are we trying to do? Then, what are the key activities needed to achieve our results? Finally, what does each of the dozen people at the top have by way of strength? How do the activities and skills match?"

The development of an organization's people might be said to work in reverse.

There are a few things not to do:

First, one doesn't try to build on peoples' weaknesses: one has to use peoples' personalities the way they are, not the way we would like them to be.

Second, don't is to take a narrow and short-sighted view of the development of people.

The worst thing an organization can do is limit the development of people by importing society's class system into its own operations like organizations today that decide very early which are the corners, or that you're not going to get anyplace if you don't have an MBA from Harvard Business School. Performance is what counts. Not in one job, but in a series of jobs, because people are not that predictable.

Instead of losing valuable people because there's only one rigidly structured way of progressing, organizations should focus on designing jobs around people and their particular strengths.

We'll also have to change the existing paradigm of progress in an organization, which by convention means promotion to managerial or supervisory positions, often with no training and based on the false assumption that technical expertise naturally translates to either a desire or an aptitude for people-management skills. "CIPD's (Chartered Institute for People and Development) research suggests that only about 40% of line-managers ever receive any formalized leadership training." In such positions, the stress that such an individual develops would only percolate down the pike, imparting the moral of a great many more

There are several things we can do. My practice would redound to such things as interviews that might involve questions on hobbies because what a person does in their free time is a window into their soul. The American Ivy-leagues apparently ask of these for this reason; we might prescreen candidates with a Wunderlich test of general cognitive ability to discern their IQ and recommend to them the roles their intellect might best perform for; and a Myers-Briggs personality type test to discern other factors (organizational cultural fit, job-role-aptitude, etc.).

My observation is that it is the psychology of the individuals that must be first addressed on such matters as people development. To paraphrase Jung, the great organizations in world history are, at the bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes an organization and here alone does organizational learning first take place, and the whole future, the whole culture of the organization, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals.


Sai SahityaSai Sahitya is a consultant with experience spanning the Middle-East and South-East Asia.

Photo-of-the-Day: December 26, 2021

Bree Trimble digs the ball for SJO
SJO Bree-easy past Trojans
St. Joseph-Ogden's Bree Trimble makes a dig in their home match against Maroa-Forsyth on September 25, 2018. The Trojans fell in two sets 25-18 and 25-14 to the Spartans. Click here to request more photos from this game or 2018 season.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Area COVID-19 Dashboard for December 25, 2021

The number of active Covid-19 cases in Champaign County continues to rise. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District now reports 2,846 positive cases, an increase of 236 over the previous day's total. Of that number, 1,179 of those battling the infection live within The Sentinel's area of coverage.

The 5-day moving average for new positive cases is up by 26 from 115 per day to 141, the highest this month.


Active Champaign County Cases:

2,846

Net change in the county: 236



Current local cases 12/25/21
Number in parenthesis indicates change over previous report on 12/24/21

Ogden • 31 (2)
Royal • 3 (1)
St. Joseph • 105 (21)
Urbana • 894 (145)
Sidney • 30 (2)
Philo • 19 (3)
Tolono • 74 (13)
Sadorus • 11 (2)
Pesotum • 12 (0)


Total Active Local Cases:

1,179

Net change in local cases: 95



Total Local Confirmed Cases: 13,507

New cases: 189


The information on this page is compiled from the latest figures provide by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at the time of publishing. Active cases are the number of confirmed cases reported currently in isolation. Local is defined as cases within the nine communities The Sentinel covers.

Photo-of-the-Day: December 25, 2021

Rockets football fans cheer team to another home win
Unity football fans along the fence in the west end zone cheer for their team during the Rockets' home playoff game against Williamsville on November 13, 2021, at Hicks Field. The Unity football team remained undefeated after booting the Bullets out of the postseason with a dominating 28-7 victory. A week later and back on their home turf, the team advanced to the Class 3A championship game to face Byron after crushing Marshall's playoff bid as well.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Heart-healthy tips for making your 2022 New Year’s resolutions


American Heart Association — Making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition and sometimes those resolutions are easier to make than to keep. The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, has tips and resources to help you set goals you can keep all year long.

"The new year is a time many people commit to making a new, healthy start – we want to eat better, exercise more, lose weight, quit smoking – the list goes on. However, for many of us, the stress of trying to live up to those lofty goals can be too much," said American Heart Association volunteer cardiologist John A. Osborne, M.D, Ph.D., director of State of the Heart Cardiology in Grapevine, Texas. "The most important thing is to set realistic expectations and start with small changes that you can amp up over time. And if you get off track, don’t be discouraged or give up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes time, so be kind to yourself and realize that making a new, healthy start doesn’t always need to coincide with Jan. 1."


Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Start small: Set yourself up for success by gradually adding in a healthy habit. Look for opportunities to make a healthy swap during at least one meal each day for a week or try to walk for five minutes instead of scrolling through social media as a break between meetings or tasks.
  • Think lean when it comes to protein: Plant proteins like nuts and legumes, fish or seafood, low fat or non-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat are the best bet when picking protein. Research shows that replacing red and processed meat with other protein sources is associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease. 
  • Keep moving: Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. Take a walk after a meal or play fetch with your pet.  
  • Reduce stress: Chronic stress can keep you from feeling your best, so incorporate scientifically proven stress relief activities each day like meditation, physical activity or spending time with your pet.
  • Make a plan: Take a few minutes each week to write out a list of meal ideas and grocery needs and you’ll be less likely to make impulse purchases. The American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark has a list of certified heart-healthy foods if you need inspiration.

Five inexpensive hobbies you can start today

Photo: Sarah Pflug/Burst


(StatePoint Media) -- With the weather turning colder and having to stay indoors more over the next three months, starting a new hobby might be just the thing to make the winter months pass by faster. Have you ever been reluctant to try a new hobby because you were worried you would spend a lot of money on gear, supplies and other start-up costs only to lose interest later?

Here are five great ways to explore hobbies more affordably without dipping into your wallet:

1. Language exchange: Rather than purchase pricey software or attend in-person classes, consider finding a language exchange partner. Take turns conversing in each other’s native tongue and pick up important communication skills -- and maybe a friend -- along the way.

2. Built-in music lessons: Music lessons and instruments can be expensive. However, you don’t need a full-sized grand piano or multiple sessions with a private teacher to master the instrument. Today, digital keyboards can offer a high-quality piano sound at a price that’s within reach, along with features specifically designed for building the skills of novices. For example, Casio keyboards are affordable and some models are outfitted with Casio’s Step-up Lesson System, which can help you learn built-in songs at your own pace. Additionally, the LCD display teaches both music notation and correct hand positioning, while an innovative scoring system allows you to track your progress. By connecting to the free Chordana Play iOS/Android app, you can learn to play your favorite songs from downloaded MIDI files, taking your music further.

3. Pick-up games: While organized sports leagues are an opportunity to make friends and get some exercise, you may not have the time to commit to weekly games or the inclination to spend money on team equipment and uniforms. Whether you call up your best pals to play in the backyard, or try your luck at the local court or field, all the benefits of team sports (e.g. fresh air and camaraderie) can be experienced participating in a casual pick-up game.

4. Wellness: To participate in online yoga classes, all you need is a mat and comfy clothes. Online classes can deliver high-quality instruction for free on a schedule that works for you. The important thing is to find a teacher whose cues you understand and who practices a style that aligns with your needs and goals. Safety tip: if you are unsure how a certain pose or flow is performed, watch the video first before attempting it on your own.

5. Return-on-investment crafting: Crafting can be expensive, particularly if you work with high-quality materials. The good news is that once you master a particular skill, be it knitting, sewing or mosaics, there are opportunities to sell your work at craft fairs and on sites like Etsy. And of course, crafts can make amazing gifts for friends and family.

While hobbies can enrich the mind, body and soul, they don’t need to cost a fortune. With a little creativity, you can learn new skills and try different activities without breaking the bank.

Illinois rental assistance program covers up to 18 months for qualified applicants

Illinois residents struggling to pay rent or facing eviction can find out if the state has funds or services to help.

Teri Ross, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, said programs and amounts available vary depending on the city or county. She explained the state's program through the Illinois Housing Development Authority reopened this month and will stay open until January 9, and more people are eligible than may think.

"If you're worried that you might be above the income level, I'd make sure you check it first," Ross advised. "It's $75,000 annual income a year for a family of four. That's well above the poverty level to qualify."

Ross added there are two major differences with the current round of state rental assistance. It will cover up to 18 months of rent, whereas past rounds covered 15 months, and the documentation requirements are more flexible. If there are certain documents you cannot access, she said you can sign a statement to attest what you're saying about your eligibility is true.

In addition to state rental assistance, Ross noted the Court-Based Rental Assistance Program may help people who already have an active eviction case in court. She said some counties also have mediation services available to help landlords and tenants negotiate a path forward.

"The other service that you can get is something called Eviction Help Illinois," Ross noted. "That provides actual legal assistance, advice and representation from lawyers available to people, and landlords as well, who find themselves in these precarious situations."

According to recent Census Bureau surveys, more than 80,000 Illinois residents are at risk of eviction or foreclosure on their homes, and more than 220,000 have been unable to pay their energy bills.

Photo-of-the-Day: December 24, 2021

St. Joseph-Ogden's Marty Wright and Jesse Schlueter
Wright at home
St. Joseph-Ogden's Marty Wright (right) and Jesse Schlueter hug after Wright scored the third run in the top of the 8th inning for his team during their Class 2A state semifinal game against Chicago Christian on June 2. Wright's head-first slide into home gave SJO a 5-2 advantage and advanced the program to the title game against Teutopolis at Dozier Stadium on Saturday.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Photo-of-the-Day: December 23, 2021

Nolan Grindley dives after a loose ball
St. Joseph-Ogden's Nolan Grindley dives after a loose ball during the Spartans' home basketball game against Teutopolis back in March of this year. The Wooden Shoes won the non-conference contest, 69-48.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

National Popcorn Day coming in January

In a recent survey of 2,000, 51% of those responding said popcorn is the number one item needed for a perfect movie night at home.

A popular snack here in the US, Americans consume around 14 billion quarts of popcorn a year. It even has its own day, January 19. National Popcorn Day became a national holiday around 2014 and has been celebrated ever since. By the way, popcorn is also the official snack of Illinois.

On a diet? Popcorn is the perfect go-to, low-calorie snack. An batch of air-popped popcorn has just 31 calories per cup. Popping in oil bumps the calorie count a bit to 55, but compared to most snack food items, it is still much better for your waistline.

Popcorn and movies go hand in hand. Here is more about what researchers learned from their survey:

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