Thumbs down to news of a COVID-19 outbreak at Choate Mental Health in Anna. According to reporting by Molly Parker in The Southern this week, 82 employees and residents of the developmental center have tested positive for the virus in a matter of 10 days. The Illinois Department of Human Services, which runs the facility, issued a statement, along with state lawmakers Reps. Terri Bryant and Patrick Windhorst and Sens. Dale Fowler and Paul Schimpf and two unions that represent Choate employees, calling the outbreak "deeply concerning." "Together, we are urging everyone in Union County to work together in the public interest to limit further spread of COVID-19," the statement reads. Forty-five of the positive cases are in residents of the facility, and 37 are employees. In Union County, test positivity rate is 6.2%, significantly higher than the region and the state. The statement urged everyone in the region to follow public health guidance to stem the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. We know how dangerous COVID-19 outbreaks are in congregate settings like Choate — and how easily the virus spreads in such a setting. Let's all do our part: Wear your mask, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance from others.
Thumbs up to the decision to postpone the SIU/SEMO football game set for later this month. Officials decided to push the game back a week after some positive COVID-19 tests in Cape Girardeau. According to reporting in The Southern by Todd Hefferman, the geographical proximity of the two rivals gives them more flexibility — something that is essential to planning any kind of activity as we all grapple with the pandemic. The game will now be on Oct. 30, and coach Nick Hill was optimistic about the extra time for the team, saying, "It's another positive for our young guys." Thumbs up as well to the Salukis' plan to limit attendance to 20% of the stadium's capacity. If events are going to go on in the shadow of the virus, we must be realistic about our expectations and do everything possible to keep players, coaches, workers and fans safe.
Thumbs up to ongoing and upcoming work on Interstate 57. Marilyn Halstead reported this week on the six Southern Illinois construction segments planned as part of an expansion project on the longest interstate highway in the state. In those six segments, I-57 will be widened to three lanes in each direction and key bridges will be replaced. Traveling through road construction is a headache, to be sure. But this is badly needed. The money for the project comes from the "Rebuild Illinois" capital program. State Rep. Dave Severin said of his support for the capital plan: "When we invest, we grow, and that's what Southern Illinois needs."
Thumbs up to the fascinating work by Southern Illinois University researchers, whose study indicated the Mississippi River is more than three times older than initially thought. Isaac Smith wrote this week about the research by Sally Potter-McIntyre, an associate professor in SIU's School of Earth Systems and Sustainability, and her former graduate student, Jeremy Breeden, that dated deposits of sedimentary rock in Southern Illinois. Potter-McIntyre told The Southern that their work indicates the Mighty Mississippi didn't actually start flowing 20 million years ago as scientists previously thought, but instead began flowing 70 million years ago. The work was featured in a Smithsonian Magazine article last month, and in that piece, the author called the Mississippi "the body of water that has defined a nation." The discovery itself is amazing. What makes us swell with pride is that the research happened right here in our backyard.
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