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Biden takes the helm, appeals for unity

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” and summoning American resilience and unity to confront the deeply divided nation’s historic confluence of crises.

Denouncing a national “uncivil war,” Biden took the oath Wednesday at a U.S. Capitol that had been battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks earlier. Then, taking his place in the White House Oval Office, he plunged into a stack of executive actions that began to undo the heart of his predecessor’s agenda on matters from the deadly pandemic to climate change.

At the Capitol, with America’s tradition of peaceful transfers of power never appearing more fragile, the ceremony unfolded within a circle of security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Biden gazed out on a cold Washington morning dotted with snow flurries to see more than 200,000 American flags planted on the National Mall to symbolize those who could not attend in person.

“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden declared in his speech. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”

History was made at his side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government.

Biden never mentioned his predecessor, who defied tradition and left town ahead of the ceremony, but his speech was an implicit rebuke of former President Donald Trump. The new president denounced “lies told for power and for profit” and was blunt about the challenges ahead.

Central among them: the surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States, as well as economic strains and a national reckoning over race.

“We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” Biden said. “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”

The absence of Trump from the inaugural ceremony underscored the national rift to be healed.

But a bipartisan trio of former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — were there to witness the transfer of power. Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, was at his Florida resort by the time the swearing-in took place.

Group gathers to discuss recent shootings in Kankakee

Kankakee First Ward Alderwoman Cherry Malone-Marshall remembers a shooting that occurred at a neighborhood store in her ward last summer. Two of her grandchildren were in the area when the shooting occurred.

“You just worry that this is happening. It could happen to someone you know,” Malone-Marshall said during a gathering Wednesday at King Middle School to address continued gun violence in Kankakee.

“Then I woke up Saturday morning and learned not one person, not two, not three, not four but five people were shot in a house two blocks from where I live.”

Two days later, a mother and two of her four children were shot as they exited their car in the 200 block of West Chestnut Street.

In response to the recent shootings, a press conference was held Wednesday evening. It was hosted by community activist Travis Miller and J.J. Hollis, a commissioner for the Kankakee Valley Park District and a Republican primary candidate for Kankakee mayor.

The press conference was held just two hours after Fyance D. Dawson, 30, of Kankakee, first appeared in court after his arrest on charges in the shooting of the mother and children.

About 50 people attended, including Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, Marshall and six Kankakee City Council members. Among them was Sixth Ward Alderman Chris Curtis, who is also running on the GOP primary ticket for Kankakee mayor.

Wells-Armstrong said unity is needed to take on gun violence.

“We lost the whole concept of living as a village,” she said, recalling one of her parents’ neighbors who kept her and the other neighborhood kids in line.

Seventh Ward Alderman Carl Brown said it is time people start talking.

“There needs to be accountability,” he said.

First Ward Alderman Michael Prude agreed, saying, “We need to know what is going on.”

Kankakee Deputy Police Chief Willie Hunt said the gun violence needs to stop.

“The bullets being shot have no names on them,” he said. “They can come through your windows next. Someone knows something. If you have something, tell someone.”

Hollis said he is tired of meeting at these gatherings that have addressed the gun violence in the community.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “We have to get to the root of the problem, the people doing this. We are through playing around. If this continues, there is a place for you.”

Kankakee School District Superintendent Genevra Walters recalled her father being shot as he closed his business in 1969. Within 24 hours, someone had been arrested due to people coming forward.

Walters was disappointed in the low turnout to Wednesday’s event, saying this is a problem the community should solve together.

“Margaret Mead said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has,’” Walters said.

She spoke to those gathered about breaking generational cycles and counseling for children involved in gun violence

Miller said it is time to rid the city of the stain of shootings.

“We have come too far,” he said.

Vaccinations for teachers, school staff begin today

Kankakee County teachers and school staff are set to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations today, and the process is set to continue for all local schools over the next two weeks.

Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis said the department is currently scheduling closed PODs (points of dispensing) for vaccinating school employees.

The department’s goal is to provide first doses of the vaccine for all schools and school districts within the county by the first week of February, he said.

If all goes as planned, first doses for school employees will be done through Feb. 3. Second doses would then have to be scheduled for four weeks later.

At this time, the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots given four weeks apart, is being provided.

Teachers and school staff are included in Phase 1B of vaccine distribution alongside other non-health care essential workers, residents 65 and older, and inmates.

The entire state will move into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution starting Jan. 25, but counties that have substantially completed the first phase are starting ahead of that date.

“Kankakee is one of those counties that is able to begin a little bit earlier because of where we were with the 1A,” Bevis said. “We pretty much got that done. In order to keep moving along, we’ve been given permission from the state to begin to do the 1Bs.”

About 200 vaccines are set to be administered today at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School. Another school district is scheduled for Friday and three others are scheduled for next week.

Several local districts including BBCHS have indicated they will not mandate employees get vaccinated but would offer the option.

Closed PODs (points of dispensing) will be set up for employees of the particular district or school only, except in instances where smaller districts are pairing up with larger ones to offer the vaccine together.

For example, roughly 35 St. George Elementary School employees are expected to join the nearly 100 employees that said they wanted the vaccine in Bradley Elementary School District 61 later this month, Bradley Superintendent Scott Goselin said.


Bevis estimates the county will remain in Phase 1B for a couple of months.

Hopefully, things might start to move along faster once pharmacies in the area able to get state approval to start giving the vaccine, he said.

This would be helpful for the health department because of the large number of people included in 1B, he said.

“That will allow us to accommodate the essential workers such as the schools, the police, factories, store workers, places like that, while then the 65-and-up [population] is getting addressed through some pharmacies,” he said. “That way, everybody is being accommodated one way or another.”

Right now, county health departments are still in charge of ordering and supplying vaccines, but eventually, providers will be able to do this themselves, like with flu shots, he said.

Bevis said ensuring all residents of Kankakee County that want the vaccine get their two doses remains “a daunting task,” and he continues to urge patience from the public.

He also asks residents to take the department’s survey located on its website and Facebook page; they will be contacted from there as to when and where they can get the vaccine.

“Those who want to get the shot will get them; we just don’t know what part of the line you are going to be in,” Bevis said. “You might be up front. You might be in the middle, and unfortunately, if you got to the party late, you might be last. But you will get your shot.”

State: Indoor dining and more expected to return Thursday in Kankakee County

Daily Journal staff report

Will and Kankakee counties are on track to be the first in the Chicago area to see limited indoor dining resume under Gov. JB Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan, state public health officials said Wednesday.

If all the mitigation metrics continue to improve, according to state officials, Region 7 will move out of Tier 3 and into Tier 1 today.

Among a long list of restrictions, Tier 3 prohibits indoor dining and bar service, shuts down video gaming centers, and closes indoor fitness classes. Tier 1 will allow for indoor dining with limited capacity and restrictions in place, among other allowances.

In addition, the east central Illinois region, which includes Champaign-Urbana and Decatur, is on track to have indoor dining expanded further, joining the 19-county west central region — home to Springfield — and the 20 southernmost counties in returning to a broader reopening, officials said. Those rules allow for indoor seating for groups of up to 10 people, with seating capacity limited to the number of tables that can be spaced 6 feet apart.

During the tier-change announcement Wednesday, IDPH reported a total of 1,081,354 cases, including 18,398 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 86,121 specimens for a total 14,984,649. As of last night, 3,284 in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 722 patients were in the ICU and 379 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

New deaths were recorded in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, a female in her 80s and a female in her 90s, respectively.

Will County reported five new deaths, including two males in their 60s, 1 female in her 70s, 1 female in her 80s and 1 male in his 80s

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from Jan. 13 to 19 is 5.5%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Jan. 13 to 19 is 6.8%.

As of Tuesday, 864,150 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 524,050 doses have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 1,388,200. IDPH is currently reporting a total of 537,740 vaccines administered, including 86,180 for long-term care facilities. Yesterday, a total of 29,008 doses were administered. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 21,869 doses.