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Local
COVID patient recalls nearly losing his life and the struggles of returning to normal

Dale Shaw is one of the lucky ones.

Yes, he contracted the COVID-19 virus. Yes, he spent 91 days in a hospital. And yes, he didn’t know it then, but a phone conversation he had with his wife late last spring was really more about his wife saying her final goodbye to her husband.

“Life has dramatically change, but I’m here,” the 65-year-old Bourbonnais resident said this week.

There were many — including the first doctor who treated him — who never thought he would survive COVID-19.

Now his wife of 44 years, Pam, simply looks at her husband with loving eyes. She, too, suffered through being infected by the virus, but firmly believed the love of her life would never return home after being admitted to the hospital.

“It’s a different Dale, but I’ll take him,” she says. “I worry about him all the time.”

Admitted into Riverside Medical Center on March 30, 2020 — just shy of one year ago — Shaw spent the next 91 days there until being discharged on June 24.

LUCKY TO HAVE SURVIVED

There are many things he simply cannot recall about his ordeal, but one thing he understands without question is he knows he is truly lucky to be a coronavirus survivor as opposed to being one of its many casualties.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been nearly 535,000 COVID-related deaths in the U.S., with nearly 24,000 of them from Illinois.

“I describe it as hell,” Shaw said of the lengthy illness and the even longer road to recovery. “I will get better.”

Recovery has been slow and he freely admits there have been times when he simply wanted to give up.

The former Exelon security guard knows the rehab will be lengthy and much work still must be put in. When he returned to his Edgemere Drive home in late June, he had limited use of his arms and he was unable to walk.

The illness also caused him to lose about 50 pounds and he noted he had significant hair loss. Afflicted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, a lung disease, he was extra susceptible to COVID-19 due to an already weakened system.

His ongoing recovery has resulted in regaining the lost muscle. He now has full use of his arms and is walking. He walks around the room to demonstrate his ability.

“I can walk,” he said, conceding “I don’t walk well.”

‘WON’T LET HIM GIVE UP’

He doesn’t see his calendar filling up with any marathon events anytime soon, he jokes.

Turning to a much more serious tone, he acknowledges without the support and care of Pam, he would likely be in a much different place.

Seated across the living room, Pam nods in support. She interjects she simply cannot imagine life without Dale.

“I won’t let him give up,” she said. “I want our life back even if it’s different. We will get it back.”

SLOW PROGRESS

The illness has had long-lasting implications. He has only 48 percent lung capacity and now sleeps with the aid of an oxygen tank.

He attends physical therapy three days a week at Ivy Rehab in Bourbonnais.

He recently received his two-stage COVID vaccination at Meijer. He said the first shot resulted in an overnight high temperature of 103. The second vaccination left him with aches similar to those of the flu.

He admitted being anxious to get the vaccine.

“Anything that can help me not get this in the future, I’ll do it,” he said.

The recovery has come with at least one perk — he was excused him from shoveling snow this past winter. An avid yard maintenance guy, he is hopeful to be able to at least help cut the lawn once this coming spring and summer.

His balance while walking is returning — he notes he is still “kind of” wobbly — but he knows the only way to getting better is by working through the up and downs of recovery.

“The first doctor who saw me told me he thought I had about a 1 percent chance of living. He said I beat the odds.”

As a result of his ongoing recovery, the front-door ramp, put in place to accommodate his wheelchair and then walking with assistance, will be dismantled.

“My next goal is to walk around the block totally on my own.”

He says he can’t wait to perform what so many others see as such a simple task.

For right now, the goal is basic: One foot in front of the other.

Said Pam, “This shows that life is not as easy as you think. But you do what you have to do.”


Local
Small businesses carry on through pandemic

Tim Nugent

For the past year, small businesses have been faced with so many obstacles as the entire country has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and its mitigations.

That’s been the case with local small businesses as well. Some had to close for two to three months while finding creative ways to stay afloat. As the business climate is slowly trending in the positive direction, local establishments are hopeful for the future.

One business that remained open but still felt the brunt of the downturn was Roy Brothers Tire & Auto on South Schuyler Avenue in Kankakee.

“We were considered an essential business,” said owner Jim Roy, who said business was really slow a year ago.

“When they first shut down in March, there were hardly any cars going by, so if people aren’t driving their cars they sure don’t break down,” Roy said. “There was a noticeable difference. We did apply for the PPP, payroll protection program. The stipulation there was you could not lay off anybody. Whether we had business or not, we were here.”

Roy, who’s been in the auto repair business for 53 years, said activity picked up when the first round of stimulus checks were sent out by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“It sparked there, and now it’s just been kind of steady but not where it should be,” he said.

Roy is hopeful business will return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think it’s going to come around because people are really tired of what’s going on, living the way they’re living,” he said. “Whether it’s because they got the shots or what, it’s hard to say.”

Community support

Natalie Seaton, owner of Moon Cookie Gallery in Kankakee, said she had to close for about two and a half months last spring, but her resale shop was able to survive.

“Honestly, we had real good local support so I don’t have room for complaints,” Seaton said. “I’m happy about that.”

She had to get creative as far as sales while her gallery was closed.

“We had curbside options, so I was able to take orders once a week from people who would email,” Seaton said. “Then I would bring their stuff to my house, and then they would pick it up. That seemed to work.”

Once restrictions were lifted and she was able to reopen her doors, the restlessness of customers spurred some uptick in business, she said.

“People were tired of being cooped up inside and were happy to come out and shop.”

Seaton also credited the gallery’s move from 285 S. Schuyler Ave. to its new location at 187 S. Schuyler Ave. in the Clock Tower Centre.

“We were really small down there, so I struggled with other things because of parking,” she said. “We were only able to have 40 artists down there, and now we have like 60. So we have more artists here to show their stuff. In my situation, this was fine. It worked.”

She applied for a PPP loan but wasn’t approved.

“It was a little bit of a struggle,” Seaton said. “I wasn’t able to pay all my bills right away, but I think we’re on the right track now.”

Nearly all of her merchandise is sold on consignment, and she receives 25 percent of the sale. She runs the gallery by herself.

“It does take a little while to get to the point of paying my rent,” Seaton said. “It is my livelihood though, so I need to succeed.”

Moon Cookie Gallery will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in May, and Seaton is hopeful for the future.

“With the Farmers’ Market restarting at the end of April that always helps us,” she said. “We usually have workshops. … We just can’t do any of them. I don’t feel comfortable doing them until everyone is vaccinated, and we’re still really strict about masks here. I know that’s deterring some people from shopping. People don’t want to come out.”

A slow ascension

Andaul Jewelers on William Latham Drive in Bourbonnais also withstood being closed for two months in 2020.

“That was tough, but we came through it OK,” said co-owner Paul Horstmann.

Andaul employs three full-time employees and one part-time employee. Andy Thomas is also a co-owner. Horstmann said business slowly picked up when it reopened.

“It didn’t take off right away, but as soon as people found out we were open, they started coming in,” he said.

Horstmann said the 2020 holiday sales were down from the previous year, but it had a good February this year. Andaul saw a slight bump in sales when the first round of stimulus checks were received. He’s hopeful business could return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think they’ll get back to normal,”Horstmann said.

Affected differently

Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said said some business sectors have been impacted more than others. While service industries bore the brunt, grocery and convenience stores have prospered during the pandemic.

“It seems like the hospitality industry got hurt more than some of the other industries, but it’s been a pretty trying year for everybody,” he said.

Nugent said his office is working on incentive packages that will help those businesses that have been affected the most.

“The last thing we want as a result of this is to have a bunch of empty storefronts,” he said.

Nugent is also mayor of Manteno, which has a good mixture of commercial, professional and service industries. He’d like to see that maintained.

“We’re looking at the possibility of being able to help some of those companies as we get reports of the income they’ve lost and see if there’s something we can make up,” he said. “We certainly like having our main street full.”


Coronavirus-local
All outside Chicago will be vaccine eligible April 12; reopening changes announced

SPRINGFIELD — All Illinoisans 16 years of age and older outside of Chicago will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations beginning April 12, and the state announced a “metric-based” phase-in to greater reopening Thursday.

The so-called “bridge phase” to reopening can begin when 70 percent of seniors 65 years of age and older have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, according to the governor. As of Thursday, that number stood at 58 percent.

It is also dependent on at least 20 percent of intensive care beds being available. Other metrics, such as COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate and case positivity rate over a 28-day monitoring period, must “hold steady.”

Gov. JB Pritzker said all regions of the state will move to the bridge phase and beyond as one, rather than individually.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has not gone away,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago, noting the virus is still killing Illinoisans daily and safety precautions such as masking and social distancing are still necessary.

“And I’m more optimistic today than I have been at any time over the last year, and more importantly the doctors and scientists are too,” he added. “It’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy.”

The state also updated current Phase 4 mitigations so that anyone with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test one to three days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits.

The bridge phase will include higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events and increased business operations, according to the governor’s office.

The largest increase is to social events, which can allow 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Previously those were capped at 50 people.

Recreation activities are allowed with groups up to 100 or 50 percent of capacity indoors, while outdoor recreation is limited to groups of 100, with multiple groups allowed at the same site.

Ticketed recreation events are allowed to hold 60 percent of the facility’s capacity.

In the bridge phase, restaurants and bars can increase capacity from 25 percent to 30 percent, and outdoor capacity is allowed up to 50 percent for standing areas. In seating areas, parties of up to 10 are allowed to sit six feet apart.

For businesses, offices, retail stores and fitness centers, capacity will increase from 50 percent to 60 percent. Amusement parks and museums can increase from 25 percent to 60 percent. Theaters and zoos can have up to 60 percent capacity as well.

But the state can revert back to an earlier phase if it “experiences an increasing trend” in COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalizations over a 10-day period.

If the numbers hold steady for 28 days in the bridge phase, the state must reach a 50 percent vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over in order to enter Phase 5. Currently, about 28 percent of that population is vaccinated.

Pritzker also said there will be “additional announcements to come” regarding other populations that will be eligible for the vaccine ahead of the April 12 expansion. Chicago, the governor said, received separate shipments from the state and can make their own determinations as to when eligibility can expand.


One year of COVID-19: A Kankakee area timeline

March

March 12, 2020

Mandate from Gov. JB Pritzker declares all schools will be closed until March 30, leading many districts across the state to prepare for e-Learning.

March 16, 2020

Bars and restaurants ordered to close for indoor service as part of sweeping mitigations put in place by Pritzker.

The parking lot at Cracker Barrel in Bourbonnais is normally packed during the lunch hour rush, but on a Wednesday in March, the rain had very few cars on which to fall as the restaurant remains closed in response to mandated precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

March 17, 2020

Many grocery store shelves — especially those for cleaning supplies, meat and paper products — become bare as shoppers stock up due to a fear of a food or supply shortage.

March 19, 2020

Kankakee County’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed by county officials. At this point, nearly 300 cases had been reported in 17 counties in Illinois.

March 20, 2020

Many churches shut their doors and take their services to a virtual platform.

March 21, 2020

Pritzker stay-at-home order issued on March 20 goes in effect and is set to expire April 7.

March 26, 2020

The Iroquois County Public Health Department confirmed the first positive case of coronavirus in Iroquois County.

April

April 1, 2020

Kankakee County’s infection rate of 5.18 positive cases per 10,000 residents is the third highest in state.

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

A sign informs the public at Pioneer Park in Kankakee following the Kankakee Valley Park District’s closure of all playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts in its jurisdiction. Basketball hoops were disabled with wood blocks in an effort to limit gatherings in accordance with the governor’s “stay at home” order.

April 2, 2020

Kankakee County Health Department announces the first death of a county resident who tested positive for coronavirus disease.

April 8, 2020

Kankakee Community College and Olivet Nazarene University announce online commencement ceremonies.

April 17, 2020

Gov. Pritzker announces that in-person learning in schools will not resume during the 2019-2020 school year, with remote learning days to continue for all pre-k through 12th-grade students.

April 25, 2020

Kankakee County is one of 12 counties in Illinois that requested a refrigerated semi-truck trailer to store bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients from the Illinois Department of Emergency Management Agency in case the morgue becomes filled to capacity.

May

May 3, 2020

Iroquois County has its first coronavirus-related death.

May 5, 2020

Riverside Healthcare begins offering non-symptomatic coronavirus testing to the general public.

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

Riverside Medical Center infection prevention nurse Paula Pourchot explains the purpose of the negative pressure tunnel, set up in the newly built East Tower, to separate the rest of the hospital from the 42-bed coronavirus isolation unit. Complete with a hand-washing station, shower room and PPE supplies, nurses pass through the tunnel before and after a 12-hour shift to execute safety precautions.

May 22, 2020

Around 300 people rallied in front of the Kankakee County Courthouse to voice the need to end the COVID restrictions and allow businesses to reopen their doors throughout not only Kankakee County, but the entire state.

May 29, 2020

State officials announce that restaurants will be allowed to open for outdoor dining.

Summer

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

John Bailey, of John Bailey Honey, delivers a customer's order Saturday during the first spring Farmers' Market in downtown Kankakee, which was executed as a drive-thru in light of coronavirus restrictions.

June 23, 2020

Gov. Pritzker released guidance for reopening schools that required face coverings for all students and staff as well as other safety protocols.

June 26, 2020

Movie theaters throughout Illinois are allowed to reopen as part of Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan. Classic Cinemas’ Paramount Theatre opened, with Cinemark Movies 10 announcing a July 10 reopening date. Restaurants were cleared for the reopening of indoor dining this day as well.

July 29, 2020

Gov. Pritzker announced guidance for youth and adult recreational sports allowing for them to partially return to play.

Aug 26, 2020

New restrictions take effect for Will and Kankakee counties that bar bars and restaurants from offering indoor dining.

Fall

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

A masked Olivet Nazarene University student walks on campus as parents help move in their student in August as the university nears the first day of classes on Monday. As students return to campus, they’re being asked to follow a set of safety standards called Tiger Pause to help guard against transmitting the coronavirus.

Sept. 18, 2020

Indoor dining returns to Will and Kankakee counties thanks to governor’s order.

Oct. 23, 2020

Kankakee County restaurants and bars again close for indoor dining thanks to governor’s order.

November 2020

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis talks in November about the influx of positive cases, each represented by a piece of paper in the stack of the more than 3,000 the department has received in just 18 days.

In terms of the number of coronavirus cases, Kankakee was ranked fifth in the nation and was mentioned in a New York Times article.

Winter

Dec. 16, 2020

At 3:08 p.m., Mileen Joines of Bourbonnais was the first recipient of the COVID-19 vaccination in Kankakee County.

Jan. 21, 2021

Will and Kankakee counties are first in the Chicago area to see limited indoor dining resume under Gov. Pritzker’s coronavirus reopening plan.

Jan. 21, 2021

Kankakee County teachers and school staff begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

tblanchette / Daily Journal/Tiffany Blanchette 

Teachers, staff at BBCHS get vaccinated — Ryan Grace, a Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School security staff member, receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in January from Kankakee County Health Department clinic coordinator and BBCHS alumna Kristen Dozier. 

Feb. 2, 2021

Will and Kankakee counties move into Phase 4, allowing for indoor dining and recreation to reopen.

February 2021

Delays in the vaccine supply chain is frustrating county officials and slowing the vaccination process in Kankakee County.

March 2021

School corporations begin returning or working toward in-person education.


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