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Summer on hold: Parks districts canceling most events

The state’s recently extended “stay at home” order through May 30 to help combat the spread of COVID-19 has prompted the cancellations of many summer events.

“All activities/events have been canceled for this summer,” said Dayna Heitz, Kankakee Valley Park District executive director.

The district announced Friday that its parks will remain closed due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order. All facilities will remain closed, including the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena, the Rec Center, River Road Sports Complex, baseball, football and soccer fields, campgrounds, rental facilities and pavilions. The parks will remain open for walking, running and biking.

“We ask that anyone attending a park location follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] social distancing guidelines,” the district’s announcement said. “We will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation carefully, and the Park District is committed to following the state’s updated policy on social gatherings to continue to help slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

Though park facilities are closed, the boat harbor will open as planned. Patrons are asked to adhere to social distancing and there’s a restriction of no more than two people to a boat. Signs at the harbor will be posted.

Fishing is allowed at the Bird Park Quarry in designated areas on the north end of the quarry and on the fishing pier on the south end. Fishing isn’t allowed on the banks of the quarry for the fisherman’s own safety.

Splash Valley

With the renovation of the Splash Valley water park expected to be completed by mid- to late June, it’s unclear at this point whether the water park will open for patrons.

“The opening of Splash Valley during the pandemic and after is of grave concern,” Heitz said. “The health, safety and welfare of our community are of the utmost important to us.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources plan to meet today to discuss pools, beaches and splash pads.

“Once the board of commissioners have received the governor’s orders and restrictions, along with any possible challenges placed upon us and the financials of the district, they will make a decision in the best interest of all,” Heitz said.

Bourbonnais Township

Bourbonnais Township Park District posted on its website that all facilities remain closed until further notice, but the trails remain open.

“The dog park [at Willowhaven Park] is open too for our members,” said Hollice Clark, BTPD executive director.

All programs were canceled in April and May programs are canceled as well, said Clark. No decision has been made on June programs, though the Family Night Out has been postponed until June 2021.

“We’re holding out hope,” Clark said. “We’re not going to carte blanche cancel anything. We will follow the governor’s proclamation, and we’ll take it week-by-week.”

The start of BTPD’s summer day camp for ages 6-13 has been pushed back to June 15 with the hopes of it being held.

“We’ll follow the CDC’s guidelines,” Clark said. “We’re all waiting for what those will be. We have a lot of space at Perry Farm that we can use for social distancing. We can divide them up into groups.”

If necessary, he also said they can use Willowhaven Park for the camp to help meet the spacing guidelines. Registration for the camp is available online.

Illinois ramps up testing, staffing at long-term care facilities

SPRINGFIELD — The state of Illinois is sending out teams of nurses and ramping up testing for COVID-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as it continues efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday during his daily briefing in Chicago that the Illinois Department of Public Health is deploying 10 teams of 50 nurses each to long-term care facilities around the state, and it will deploy another team of 200 nurses in the coming days.

Pritzker said the nurses’ primary functions will be to administer swab tests to the staff and residents, train nursing home staff on how to conduct swab tests themselves, and help the facilities improve their hygiene practices and use of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“As always, I want to offer my gratitude and the thanks of a grateful state to the front-line staff who dedicate their days and their nights to this work and who are stepping up in incredible ways to protect those most vulnerable to this virus,” Pritzker said. “Know that your work makes a world of difference for the people that you care for, to their families and to all of Illinois.”

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said her agency is focusing on nursing homes because of the unique vulnerability of their residents.

“Our long-term care residents are at greater risk of infection because of the inherent nature of living in that congregate setting, not to mention the advanced age and the attendant comorbidities,” she said. “Public health will continue to work closely with the long-term care facilities across the state, calling almost 200 facilities a day to check in on the staff and ask for the assistance that may be required. We’re making sure that they’re employing the most up-to-date guidance and answering any questions that they may have.”

Pritzker had announced earlier that the state was ramping up testing at those facilities so that all residents and staff could be tested free of charge. Since April 19 when those efforts began, he said, the state has distributed more than 18,000 testing swabs to 68 facilities across the state.

More recently, he said Wednesday, IDPH secured a contract with New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, which operates labs in Illinois, to process 3,000 tests per day for long-term care facilities and to report those results within 48 hours.

In addition to deploying nurses to long-term care facilities around the state, Pritzker said IDPH and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation have simplified the hiring process for nurses so facilities suffering from staff shortages due to illnesses can quickly hire temporary staff.

Information about outbreaks at specific nursing facilities is available on the IDPH website.

Pritzker announced those efforts Wednesday as IDPH reported 2,253 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 92 virus-related deaths over the previous 24 hours. That brings the total to 50,355 cases, and 2,215 deaths since the pandemic first appeared in Illinois. Cases of the disease have been reported in 96 of the state’s 102 counties.

Also over the previous day, laboratories had processed 14,478 specimens for a total of 256,667 since the pandemic began, IDPH said.

Starting Friday, May 1, a new stay-at-home order will take effect in Illinois for 30 days. Under that order, all individuals will be required to wear some kind of face covering when they are shopping or in any other public setting.

Garden centers and nurseries will be allowed to open for business and other retail outlets will be allowed to take online and telephone orders for delivery or pickup outside the store. Golf courses will also be allowed to open under strict social distancing guidelines.

Challenging the mandate

That order, however, is now the subject of two lawsuits filed by Republican lawmakers who argue that Pritzker is exceeding his authority under the state’s emergency management law.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Wednesday filed an appeal with the 5th District Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon and simultaneously in the Illinois Supreme Court of a Clay County circuit judge’s ruling from Monday that the new stay-at-home order will violate the civil rights of Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia.

“There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our state, and government must balance the critical need to save lives with the economic hardships being felt by residents throughout Illinois,” Raoul said in a statement Wednesday. “Governors have historically renewed disaster declarations to meet the challenges of disasters that last longer than 30 days without objection, and a pandemic should be no different.”

The second lawsuit was filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court by Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, who is seeking an injunction to block the next stay-at-home order from taking effect on May 1. But Pritzker said Wednesday he will not back down.

“I think it’s a similarly irresponsible lawsuit,” he said. “You know, we’re in the business here of keeping people safe and healthy. That’s what the stay-at-home order has been about. And I just think that lawsuit is just another attempt at grandstanding.”

Bourbonnais elementary teachers report working longer hours, feeling stressed

BOURBONNAIS — A recent survey indicates that 80 percent of Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 teachers reported feeling more stressed since having to implement remote learning.

Bourbonnais Education Association President Lauren Lundmark shared results of a teacher survey during Tuesday’s remote school board meeting.

Lundmark said the percentage of teachers who indicated feeling stressed is hardly surprising, especially considering that almost two-thirds of them are also caring for their own children while working from home.

“Despite this, our teachers are still delivering,” she said.

Mandatory school closures in Illinois began March 17 and have been extended until at least the end of this school year. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he doesn’t yet know what the fall will look like, and that educators should prepare to extend e-learning lessons in case schools have to remain closed.

The survey also indicated that 60 percent of teachers reported that they’ve been spending more time planning, preparing, grading and interacting with students during remote learning than during regular school attendance days.

“If you know our BESD teachers, you know they’re already putting in a lot of hours, so that’s pretty impressive,” Lundmark said.

Additionally, 95 percent of teachers reported that they’ve taken time to research, plan and use new technology to better reach students, and 99 percent reported that they are using learning materials they created themselves.

Lundmark added that teachers are working late hours including evenings and weekends to get the job done.

“You may ask why we keep going, what is their motivation,” she said. “We know how much our kids and our parents need us and how much they appreciate us.”

She said messages and videos expressing gratitude from parents have been flooding in and even bringing some teachers to tears.

“The support we’ve been receiving from the community at this time has just been overwhelming, and it’s really keeping us going,” Lundmark said. “This is why we do what we do. We love and miss our kids and we so badly wish we could see them.”

Manteno groups planning cruise event

MANTENO — With the coronavirus pandemic, gathering for a cruise-in to ooh and awe over show cars isn’t an option. So in Manteno, they’re taking the cruise-in to the streets.

“Well since we may not have any cruise nights for the foreseeable future, the Manteno Cruise Night folks and the Manteno Chamber of Commerce came up with a car cruise around town,” the Manteno Police Department said.

Set for 1 p.m. Saturday, May 2, the Show Car Cruise is hosted by the Manteno Cruise Nights organization, the police department and the village of Manteno. The cruise nights group is inviting show car owners to join them as they cruise through Manteno neighborhoods.

“I think this will be a great spirit lifter as we are all feeling the pinch with the current situation we are all in,” Rich Pawlek said in a Facebook post calling out to car owners to get involved.

In the post, he encouraged car owners to decorate their cars in honor of first responders, the Class of 2020 and more.

Those participating will gather in the north Main Street parking lot across from the Manteno Police Department before heading out at 1 p.m. The cars will take the following route through the village:

• South on Main Street to Cook Street

• Right on Cook Street to South Walnut Street

• Left on South Walnut Street to Jeffrey Drive

• Right on Jeffrey Drive to Kurt Drive

• Left on Kurt Drive to Brian Drive

• Right on Brian Drive to Southcreek Drive

• Left on Southcreek Drive to Meadow Path

• Right on Meadow Path to South Cypress Drive (Frontage Road)

• Right on South Cypress Drive (Frontage Road) to Division Street

• Across Division Street on North Cypress Drive to Park Street

• Right on Park Street to Willow Road

• Left on Willow Road to Hesburgh Drive

• Right on Hesburgh Drive to Maple Street

• Left on Maple Street to 10000N Road

• Left on 10000N Road, across I-57 to Spruce Street (1000E Road)

• Left on Spruce Street to Eagles Landing Drive North

• Right on Eagles Landing Drive North to Eagles Landing Drive

• Left on Eagles Landing Drive to Raven Drive

• Left on Raven around to Lester Drive

• Right on Lester Drive across Spruce Street (street turns into Longfellow Drive)

• Longfellow Drive to Sandburg Street

• Right on Sandburg Street to Jefferson Street

• Left on Jefferson Street around to Lincoln Drive to Spruce Street

Residents are encouraged to gather along the route in front of their homes or parking lots to watch the parade of cars. Organizers ask that all involved practice social distancing and to not gather in groups with those outside their households.

Those wishing to participate in the cruise may contact Pawlak at mantenocruisenight@att.net.