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Opinion | Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to Don Welge's legacy, thumbs down to COVID-19's wrath
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Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to Don Welge's legacy, thumbs down to COVID-19's wrath

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Thumbs up to the resolve and resiliency of Southern Illinoisans throughout our region. On Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the stay-home order will be extended to May 30, with some loosening of the rules in place. Yeah, it’s not exactly the news we were all hoping for, but it was probably expected. Regardless of whether or not you think the governor’s right or wrong, we have to get through this together. We have to adhere to the rules so COVID-19 doesn’t get worse. We promise you, this will end. We will make it through this. But, it will end much quicker if we all stick together.

Thumbs up to the life and legacy of Don Welge, the patriarch of one of Southern Illinois’ largest and oldest family-owned businesses. Welge, the president and chief executive officer of Gilster-Mary Lee in Chester, died last week from complications of COVID-19. He was 84. Welge, a well-known businessman and philanthropic civic leader, started his career with the food manufacturing company in 1957, and the company employed about 20 people. Today, Gilster-Mary Lee employs more than 3,000 people across four states — Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado. Its products are shipped across the U.S. and Canada and into international markets. The company makes such products as pastas, soups, pancake mixes, cereals and other pantry staples. “I was fortunate to have him as a father. I was fortunate to have him as my boss and I’m obviously going to miss him tremendously,” his son, Tom Welge, who is a vice president and general counsel at the company, said in a story last week.

Thumbs down to the situations in Mount Vernon and Randolph County playing out right now. In Mount Vernon, nearly 70 residents and employees of a long-term care facility, GreenTree at Mt. Vernon, have tested positive for COVID-19. And Randolph County has one of the highest COVID-19 per-capita infection rates in Illinois, according to The Southern Illinoisan’s analysis of Illinois Department of Public Health data. As of last week, Randolph County, and neighboring Monroe County, both had known infection rates of about 150 per 100,000 people. These were the highest rates of any county south of Kankakee. The two counties with the highest infection rates were Cook County (including Chicago and county cases), at about 370 per 100,000 people, and Lake County, at about 270 per 100,000 people.“I don’t want my residents to let their guard down. I want them to understand that what they have been doing is reflecting on why we have people recovering, and why we’re starting to see a slow-down in cases,” said Angie Oathout, administrator of the Randolph County Health Department. In Mount Vernon, the state has contracted with the Drury Inn to provide alternative housing to employees working at GreenTree so that they can protect their families. We all knew the coronavirus was going to hit hard in Southern Illinois, so here’s hoping the situations will continue to get better.

Thumbs down to the fact that schools are shut down for the rest of the year. This also means that there will be no spring prep sports season this year, either. It’s not that we disagree with the decision being made, we just feel for the high school seniors who won’t have a prom. Or a formal graduation. Or a final sports season in high school. Or anything that goes with being a senior. That last year in high school is something everybody looks forward to, and to go without is downright heartbreaking. We truly feel for anyone having to go through this right now.



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