Thumbs up to all parts of Illinois being on track to move to the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state. By moving into the “Recovery” phase next week, offices, salons, barbershops and manufacturers will begin to return with some capacity restrictions. I think that’s news that we all can get behind. Gov. Pritzker also announced this week that some outdoor dining can be utilized in this next phase, although details are still being worked on with that. “Now we all realize there will be no swift rescue, no knight in shining armor in the form of a vaccine or an antiviral that will sweep in and return our lives to normal before the summer comes. Our transmission balance is tenuous and business as usual could set off another wave of infections that threatens our lives and livelihoods,” said lead epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine Dr. Emily Landon. Yes, we know this is difficult for all of us. But the numbers are proving that we are doing the right thing. The number of active cases here in our region is getting lower, so we’re doing things right. If we stay on the path, good things will happen. As reopening begins, we need to continue helping our neighbors by adhering to social-distancing guidelines and wearing masks in public.
Thumbs down to the unemployment rate in Illinois reaching a record 16.4% in April. That’s the highest rate recorded since the modern system of tracking joblessness began in 1976. The previous record of 13.9% was set in February 1983. Even more staggering: This comes just a few months after the state set a record low unemployment rate of 3.4% in November. A lot of people are hurting in our region. “As we move to safely reopen much of our economy, we are focused on ensuring working families and small businesses have the resources they need to recover, and we urge the federal government to step up and provide additional relief,” Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes said in a statement.
Thumbs down to a data breach this past week at the state’s Department of Employment Security. The breach was discovered by a person in our region, who reported it to State Rep. Terri Bryant. Bryant said a staffer sent her three screenshots taken by a constituent trying to navigate the IDES Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal. It showed pages of applicants’ personal information including their number of dependents and their full social security numbers. The timing couldn’t be worse for a data breach involving personal information, but then again, is there ever a good time? Hopefully, the department rights this mistake and improves its system.
Thumbs up to Southern Illinois Healthcare for teaming up with the Mayo Clinic for a national program that will offer COVID-19 patients access to convalescent plasma treatment. At SIH facilities, patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms have been treated with a short course of steroids. Patients with moderate symptoms have been treated with Tocilizunad and hydroxychloroquinine, and the severely ill patients can be given convalescent plasma therapy, after approval from the Mayo Clinic. The convalescent plasma therapy takes blood plasma from a patient who had COVID-19 and has recovered. Patients currently fighting the disease receive an infusion of donated plasma. “They are seeing optimistic results. That’s why they made it available for other facilities,” said Dr. Sarah Altamimi, an infectious disease physician at SIH.
Thumbs up to the Carbondale Farmer’s Market, which will host an open-air market Saturday — with restrictions. Vendors will be spread further apart and customers are asked to keep 6 feet from one another and to wear masks. But, the open-air market will be back, and that’s music to our ears. Everybody loves the farmers market. Since the stay-at-home order started, the market in Carbondale was a drive-thru market with limited vendors. Now, it will be outside, but organizers are looking for help from the public. “We really need the public’s help with this thing. You can’t physically hold everybody’s hand and lead them away from each other," said Kurt Sweitzer, market board president and architect of the new market layout.
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