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Southern Illinois is losing to easily preventable disease

Posted on 10/14/2020, 12:36 AM

Congratulations Saline County! Let's not forget Gallatin or White, nor our neighbors to the west like Williamson and Jackson counties.

Actually, all of the counties in Illinois Public Health Department's Region 5 share in the credit.

The prize?

Losing to one of the most easily prevented diseases in our modern history, through a combination of apathy and lack of basic human consideration.

Tuesday, the Region 5 counties managed to overcome daunting odds and climb to an 8 percent COVID-19 infection rate.

A trip I made to a local super department store Saturday makes me understand why. I was in the housewares aisle that evening. I was wearing a mask, which is still a thing in this state.

I noticed I was in a vast minority that evening, as most people I saw shopping were not wearing masks, but didn't think that much about it until I overhead a conversation the next aisle over between a customer and a worker.

The female customer asked the worker why so many people were permitted in the store without masks.

The employee was very empathetic and courteous, but told the customer they ask that people wear masks but can't really enforce them entering the store without one or taking a mask off once inside.

That's certainly not true. If a store can bar people from entering without shoes or shirts, they also can bar them from entering without masks.

Part of the issue may be blamed on the governor's executive order, which states that all people over age two must wear a mask if medically able to do so when indoors and a six-foot space cannot be maintained.

There's way too much leeway there. Evidently, we've been stricken with another mystery illness that has rendered 90 percent of Saline County unable to cope with wearing a mask.

Plus, if a store is relatively empty, it would be ridiculous to pull up a mask each time you thought you might come close to that magical six-foot distance.

The basic rules from every reputable health source (not the folks ranting on AM radio) are simple: wash your hands or use sanitizer, stay six feet or more from others and wear a mask.

Despite all the ludicrous claims made to the contrary, those very simple and basic habits work. This thing isn't a dread disease from the Middle Ages. It's relatively weak.

But, now that we've hit the 8 percent infection rate as a region, the state will keep tracking us. If we stay at that rate or go up for five consecutive days, once again we'll see serious restrictions on what we can and can't do. Our already struggling economy can't handle more shutdowns.

Also, I have a side note for people who are so inconsiderate of others that they keep repeating a false death rate statistic. First, you shouldn't repeat a statistic without determining whether it's accurate. And there are a whole bunch of folks who keep claiming this isn't an issue because it's a ". 04" or ". 03" percent death rate. News flash: you can't do math.

As of Tuesday, there have been 215,000 U.S. citizens who have died from COVID-19 complications. There have been 7.85 million cases. That means you divide 215,000 by 7,850,000. You get .027. That doesn't mean the death rate is .027. That means it's 2.7 percent. Which means, if 100 people have it, statistically between two and three of them will die. If you can't do basic math, please don't offer your advice about COVID-19.

And, as a colleague pointed out to me late Tuesday afternoon, Perry County doesn't deserve to be called out for the rest of Region 5's high infection rate. Shoutout to Perry County, who's sitting at 2 percent.