Wading through this pandemic — especially with the isolation, economic fallout and lives lost to a novel coronavirus — was surely on no one's to-do list at the start of this in March 2020.
Reflecting on the past 18 months, a very deserving special shout-out goes to doctors, nurses, first-responders, and other frontline workers like underpaid — and overworked — K-12 teachers and day care workers.
Grocery store employees and those in the restaurant industry also deserve a nod for providing families some sense of normalcy during not-so-normal times.
COVID-19 has been front and center of The Southern’s daily news coverage since March 2020 — and it will continue to be, so long as the virus remains a threat and until more people vaccinated and protected against this potentially deadly disease.
For months, The Southern has published county-by-county chart on a daily basis in the paper. Our hard-working staff have consistently compiled lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths — data provided by local health officials — to update our readers on the ever-evolving health crisis happening right here in Southern Illinois.
Starting next week, we will no longer publish this chart daily. Instead, it will appear once a week, in our weekend edition, beginning Saturday, July 10.
At the height of the pandemic during this past winter, our health departments were collectively reporting hundreds of daily new cases, running up the tally and providing news outlets and the public with regular updates.
Thankfully, today is a much different story: Daily case counts are in the single digits, or zero. In many cases, health departments are updating their totals only once a week instead of every day.
We know how valuable this information is, especially for our print readers — some of whom are homebound or lack internet access to view our E-edition online. So, if COVID-19 rears its ugly head later this year and cases skyrocket despite vaccinations, as some health experts predict, we will return to running the chart daily in print. You have our word.
Our staff will continue to update the online chart through each week as health departments provide updates, which you can view at www.thesouthern.com. You can view the chart at this link: COVID-19 in Southern Illinois: Here are today's case numbers.
Some good news. As of Thursday this week, over 6 million Illinoisans — or 55.7% — have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Those numbers on their own suggest cause for celebration. But a closer look and you'll see a handful of Southern Illinois counties are far behind the rest of the state. Several others are still missing the mark despite having made significant gains since the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations were first made available and distributed this winter and spring.
In Alexander County, only 14.5% of the population have been vaccinated, according to state health department figures. In Pulaski, it's only 22%. In Pope, it's only 23%. In Hamilton, it's 24%.
Thankfully, vaccination rates are faring better elsewhere. Jackson County is at 38%; Union, at 37%; Williamson, at 35%; Saline and Gallatin, both at 32%.
But our region is still lagging far behind the rest of the state.
We can do better. We have to do better.