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A parade of support: Community helps twin celebrate birthday after devastating loss

Trevor Torres laughs with his family as a passing car of friends tosses candy toward his Bourbonnais home Thursday during a birthday parade for the now 12-year-old.

In place of a party during the coronavirus “stay at home” mandate, his parents, Juan and Jaime Torres, and sister, Victoria, 13, stood in their front yard (above) as three fire engines, nearly 20 police, fire and county vehicles, one armored rescue truck and more than 30 decorated cars filled with family and friends formed a caravan to honk in celebration of Trevor’s birthday (top right and bottom left), which he shares with his late twin brother, Tanner, who died in a car accident last August.

The caravan continued out to St. George Cemetery, where Tanner is laid to rest. Being able to still include Tanner in the day’s events even though he was not physically there was one of Trevor’s favorite parts, he said.

Seeing his friends in the parade procession after weeks of quarantine also was a welcome sight.

Parade organizer and family friend Alexandria Zilinger, of Bourbonnais, said the idea came about after seeing other parents holding birthday parades for their children with canceled birthday activities thanks to Illinois’ executive order.

“With not being able to celebrate with his friends and family due to social distancing, I thought this would be the best way to celebrate,” Zilinger said. “It’s been almost eight months without Tanner, and life has had some crazy obstacles. We just wanted to show [the Torres family] some love and support today.”

Finding a way to make the day a little special was the goal, Jaime said. She and her husband, Juan, both agreed the showing of support for their family, and for Trevor, was amazing.

Seeing all the police cars and firetrucks was particularly special since Tanner was “all about that,” Juan said. At 11, he already had plans to go into the military and both boys shared an enthusiasm for the police and fire trades.

“Today showed us how blessed we are to live a community like this,” Juan said. “Our friends and family are always there for us.”

Manteno to waive liquor license fees

Because of the economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Manteno businesses, village board members have agreed to waive all liquor license permit fees and gaming/amusement permit license fees for the fiscal year 2021, which begins May 1, 2020.

The action will be formally adopted at today’s Manteno Village Board meeting.

Manteno is the first Kankakee County community to take this action.

This waiver will only apply to existing liquor licenses. Any newly issued licenses during the year will still be required to pay the standard fees, unless the board approves an additional waiver.

To receive the fee waiver, license holders still need to submit a completed application, manager application, certificate of insurance and lease agreement if not the owner of the property, as required by ordinance.

New licenses take effect May 1.

The fee waiver will cost the village about $35,000.

“We hope that this waiver of fees will help your business rebound from these difficult times and in some way provide some relief to ensure your business continues to thrive here in Manteno,” Mayor Tim Nugent stated in the announcement.

Nugent said the waiver applies to bars, restaurants, breweries, grocery stores, gas stations and liquor stores. Annual license fees range from $500 to $1,500, depending on the type of license needed.

The village has an annual operating budget of about $5.5 million.

Nugent said the next budget will be a dramatically different looking document than the year which is about to conclude. He said the village will be tapping into cash reserves.

“We know the time has come to go into our rainy day fund. The fund is set aside for emergencies, and I have never seen a bigger emergency,” the mayor said.

Regarding the fee waiver, Nugent said there are only so many expenses the village has this type of control over.

“We obviously want to help our small businesses any way we can and get them going again,” he said.

Nugent also noted the budget is fueled in large part — some $1.25 million — by sales tax revenues. He noted car dealership sales are suffering as a result of the coronavirus so that is of pending concern as well for the new budget year.

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Within the next two to three weeks, the federal government’s $2.2 trillion Economic Impact Payments will begin hitting checking accounts of citizens throughout the country.

Young, middle age and, yes, senior citizens.

In listening to discussions and reading some social media posts, there appears to be some confusion as to who might be receiving the $1,200 payment. Some senior citizens believe they may not be part of the plan. That would not be correct.

Senior citizens — just like nearly every other adult citizen — will receive the payment as long as their income does not rise above the $75,000 threshold for the full payment.

“This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return,” it was stated on ”Economic impact payments: What you need to know” guide published March 30 by the IRS.

Kankakee Co. records 2 COVID-19 deaths

Daily Journal staff report

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County recorded its first coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, with two in one day.

A Kankakee woman in her 40s and a Bourbonnais man in his 80s died Thursday, according to the Kankakee County Health Department. Both had underlying health conditions. Their names were not released.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and community members affected by this loss,” read a post on the health department’s Facebook page after the first death’s announcement. “We continue to work closely with our partners at the county EMA, AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital, and Riverside Healthcare to reduce the spread and impact of this virus and care for those affected. During this difficult time we continue to ask the community to take the necessary steps to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe.”

As of Thursday, there are now 57 confirmed cases in Kankakee County.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials say there are 7,695 known cases of the new coronavirus in the state and 157 deaths. The IDPH reports that more than 43,000 people have been tested.

The department reminded the community to continue to follow social distancing recommendations put in place by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “stay at home” mandate.

Pritzker asks residents to be ‘All In’ in helping state’s coronavirus fight

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a public service initiative to mobilize the state’s “strongest weapon” against the spread of novel coronavirus — Illinoisans.

Pritzker said his administration has “nearly exhausted every avenue available” to mitigate COVID-19’s expansion. It instituted a stay-at-home order, banned dining in at restaurants and bars, limited public gatherings and shuttered schools.

Now, the governor is asking Illinoisans to not only stay at home, but to celebrate it.

“All In Illinois” is a program encouraging residents to continue observing social distancing guidelines. Citizens can go to AllIn.Illinois.gov to pledge they will uphold best practices, post social media videos and add digital frames to online profiles in support of the effort.

Pritzker said he is “very, very proud” of those working and learning from home and essential personnel helping residents.

“I see you as tough as you are kind, as courageous as you are creative,” he said. “... All In is our anthem and our point of pride — Illinoisans staying home for the good of each other and for our state.”

The initiative encourages citizens to consider their neighbors, relatives, immuno-compromised community members and essential workers by avoiding proximity.

Pritzker promoted the initiative during his daily news conference Thursday in Chicago, during which the latest rise in coronavirus cases and deaths were reported and the federal government’s early efforts were lambasted.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced an additional 715 confirmed COVID-19 cases — including for the first time Logan, Macoupin, Mercer, Moultrie and Piatt counties — bringing Illinois’ total to 7,695 cases in 61 counties.

She also said 16 more residents died, in Christian, Cook, DuPage, McHenry and Whiteside counties. The Illinois novel coronavirus death toll stands at 157.

Twelve of the newly reported deaths were in Cook County, in people aged in their 30s to 80s. A total of 43,656 people have been tested, an increase of more than 3,000 from Wednesday.

COVID-19 is “not a death sentence,” Ezike said. The third and fourth patients confirmed to have the virus in Illinois, a couple in their 70s, recovered and are doing well, and a survey sent to those who contracted COVID-19 earlier this week found about 50 percent had recovered after seven days. That is a number Ezike said “will only increase.”

Pritzker and Ezike stressed Illinoisans need to continue staying home as frequently as possible and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, should be thoroughly cleaned daily and employers should send symptomatic workers home.

Ezike added religious institutions must hold services virtually, not in person, to do their part “to end this pandemic.”

“I understand the importance of communing with fellow believers,” she said. “... We all must make this sacrifice, then on the other side of this pandemic, we can gather at the mosque or synagogue, the church, the museum, the library — all of the places we love. We must not continue putting people at risk.”

Pritzker also criticized the federal government’s response in his strongest terms yet.

“I’m honestly upset about the lack of early action on a national basis. This will go down in history as a profound failure of our national government,” Pritzker said. “I’m telling you this, because in terms of state actions, state orders, we’ve nearly exhausted every avenue available. Now the rest is up to you.”

Prison population

The Pritzker administration is continuing to review and commute the sentences of vulnerable inmates and those with nonviolent offenses to mitigate potential spread among prison populations.

Sentences for pregnant women or those with babies, retail shoplifters and those incarcerated on narcotics chargers have been commuted.

“We had more than 1,000 fewer prisoners in prison today than we had on February 1,” Pritzker said.

On Tuesday, the state announced an outbreak at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, with 32 cases reported and more tests pending.

Ezike said people who were infected at Stateville were moved into a separate part of the facility, and the number hospitalized from the facility decreased to 16 Thursday from 19 Wednesday.

“Again, here’s another glimmer of hope — three people recovered and were released from the hospital,” she said.

Unemployment benefits claims

The Illinois Department of Employment Security system designed to receive and process unemployment benefit claims “is a problem,” Pritzker said Thursday.

That system was remodeled in 2010 to handle the number of claims the department then expected to receive. But “this is the biggest onslaught of unemployment claims, I think, ever,” the governor said — more so than during the recession in 2008-09.

His administration is working with IDES and the Department of Innovation Technology to solve issues of long call center wait times and online portal crashes, but in the short term people applying for benefits are being asked to do so on an alphabetized scheduled.

School cancellations

Indiana and Michigan governors have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the school year. When asked whether he was considering similar action, Pritzker said, “I don’t really have a good answer for you.”

“Will school be canceled for the rest of the year is really a decision that will get made as we get closer, as we enter a peak period whenever that may be — sometime, we think, in the later half of April,” the governor said. “(When) we start to come off that peak, I think we’ll start to be able to make some decisions about what does May look like.”

The state’s public and private schools are ordered closed through April 30, coinciding with the statewide stay-at-home order.