Opinion | Voice of The Southern

The Southern’s editorial board members are: Terra Kerkemeyer, publisher; Tom English, executive editor; Les Winkeler, sports editor; and Alee Quick, local news editor

Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to Saluki basketball, thumbs down to potential congressional district loss
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Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Thumbs up to Saluki basketball, thumbs down to potential congressional district loss

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Thumbs up to the SIU men’s basketball team, who are capturing the region’s imagination with their winning ways. The week started with a heart-stopping, last-second Salukis’ win over Missouri State at Banterra Center, with freshman Marcus Domask providing the dramatics by draining a buzzer-beating jumper to lift SIU. But, on Wednesday, the Salukis’ seven-game winning streak was snapped with a tough loss on the road at Valparaiso. After the loss, SIU is tied with Loyola for second place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with five games to go. On Saturday afternoon, the Salukis return home, where they have won 10 straight games, to host Bradley. Let’s make sure Banterra Center is rockin' Saturday afternoon.

Thumbs up to a $500 million state investment in 15 hubs of a University of Illinois-led public-private research institute network, which was announced this week. SIU Carbondale is among those hubs, as it will house the iFERM hub. It will receive an initial funding of $2.5 million through the program. SIUC will address the challenges the downstate region faces related to food, nutrition, agriculture and health. The hub will also provide the infrastructure to develop agricultural value-added products, which in turn will promote and support successful entrepreneurial activities. One of the hub’s primary goals will be to find new and different ways to utilize Illinois agricultural products and market them successfully.

Thumbs down to the fact that experts say that the 15th Congressional District will be the one eliminated after the 2020 census. Look, the reality is this: People are leaving the state. And, when that happens, seats are lost in Congress. In the 15th District, which stretches across nearly 15,000 square miles of Southern and central Illinois, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that from 2013 to 2018, the district’s population dropped by about 14,000, to 690,000 — jeopardizing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because a congressional district must have about 710,000 residents.

Thumbs up to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which now has the ability to test for the 2019 novel coronavirus in-state. That means shorter wait times for test results for people showing symptoms of the virus and meeting certain criteria. It’s also worth noting that Illinois is the first state to be able to do the testing without shipping specimens out of state, and results are typically available within 24 hours. Even more importantly, the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global health emergency, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to the U.S. public at large “remains low at this time.” In Illinois, two people have tested positive — a woman who had recently traveled to China, and her husband. Another 44 tests for the virus in Illinois residents have come back negative, according to IDPH. Another three tests of “persons under investigation” are pending.

Thumbs up to SIU Carbondale’s 58th International Festival, which kicked off this week with the annual parade of flags. The festival continued throughout the week at the Student Center, with events such as an international food fair and a cultural show, which is Friday. SIU has a long history with the international community, and currently has more than 1,000 international students, scholars and their families from about 100 nations that call SIU home.

Thumbs up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who signed an executive order this month that will dedicate $4.1 million to opioid recovery and prevention services. The order, which will fund an array of initiatives, is particularly focused on combating racial disparities in the opioid crisis, as deaths increased among both African Americans (up 9.1%) and Latinos (up 4.3%) in 2019, even as Illinois registered an overall decrease in overdose deaths, its first in five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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