Thumbs down to the precarious situation in which Southern Illinois finds itself when it comes to the spread of COVID-19. This past Friday, seven Southern Illinois counties were added to the Illinois Department of Public Health's list of counties considered to be at a warning level for COVID-19 spread. The week before, only three counties were on the list. This increase represents a worrying trend. Earlier this week, IDPH reported that Region 5 of the state's coronavirus plan, which includes all of deep Southern Illinois, reached 8% for its rolling seven-day positivity rate on Oct. 10. If a region's positivity rate stays at 8% for three consecutive days, the state can impose greater restrictions in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, including banning indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars and limiting their hours. Thankfully, Southern Illinois' positivity rate was below 8% for Oct. 11 and 12 (the most current state data is a few days old), so we seem to be in the clear for now. Whether you agree with added mitigations or not, they're a possibility if our metrics get too high. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and follow public health guidance.
Thumbs up to the return of the cave music venue near Pomona, now known as the Shawnee Cave Amphitheater. Can you think of anything more uniquely Southern Illinois than a music venue that is literally a cave? The storied venue has been the home of many memorable (and, let's be honest, maybe some not-so-memorable) nights. Isaac Smith reported last week that the cave's new owners, Jeff Parrish and Shane Wade, are trying to rebuild the venue's brand and shirk some of its more wild past. A more grown-up image for the place can only attract more spectators to the idyllic spot. The two have already expanded the stage and revamped the front gates, and they're securing a liquor license for the venue; they plan to add an RV park and have big ideas for a full slate of entertainment events, from movie nights to comedy shows and more. Their first show, on Halloween night, will feature bluegrass favorites Yonder Mountain String Band. We're looking forward to the space's renewed future as a Southern Illinois destination.
Thumbs up to Southern Illinois University's push to seek public input on its strategic plan. Molly Parker reported last week that the university system, at the direction of President Daniel Mahony, is seeking feedback from alumni, students, faculty, staff and community members through an online survey at surveymonkey.com/r/SIUSystemsurvey. The responses will inform the work of a strategic planning committee, which has representatives from the system and the its three campuses. After the committee comes up with its goals for the system, they'll seek further feedback from the campus communities and the region through virtual town hall-style meetings. Mahony also told The Southern he intends for the strategic plan to be a living document, not something that's created once and forgotten about. Including public input acknowledges the importance of SIU to the entire region, off campus as well as on. If you'd like to answer the survey, do so by Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Thumbs up to Glenn and Jo Poshard, who created a scholarship endowment at John A. Logan College for students who plan to continue their educations at Southern Illinois University. The couple donated $110,000 to establish the scholarship, as Marilyn Halstead reported earlier this week. "We wanted to establish this scholarship because Jo and I both believe in John A. Logan College, and we are proud of the quality education that students receive here," Glenn Poshard said. "We also believe in Southern Illinois, and we not only want students to be able to attend John A. Logan College and SIU, but also to have the opportunity to stay in Southern Illinois after graduation."