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Friday, January 27, 2023

More COVID deaths in Monroe County as vaccine rollout continues

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The Monroe County Health Department completed another round of vaccines as more COVID-related death and record hospitalizations were reported.

The latest vaccine shipment – again only for Monroe County healthcare workers involved with direct patient contact – were administered Monday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Waterloo. 

The county may soon receive more vaccines, as Gov. JB Pritkzer, along with the governors of nearby Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, called Thursday for the federal government to distribute the reserve COVID-19 vaccines immediately.

“In each of our states, vaccine delivery has been much slower than we anticipated, so it is imperative that the federal government distribute the vaccines it is holding on reserve. These vaccines will save millions of Americans from the unnecessary danger and hardship of contracting COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “Up to now, this vaccine has only been offered to a very specific group of people at very specific location. Our states are ready to work alongside the federal government to expand vaccine distribution so that we can protect the wellbeing of all our residents, families, small businesses and our economy.”

The United States topped 4,000 COVID deaths in a single day for the first time on Thursday.

Roughly half of America’s supply of the vaccine has been held in reserve to ensure those who get their first shot get their second.

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, announced Friday that he plans to release all the vaccines currently held in reserve, greatly upping the number of people who could soon get their first shot while risking delays for the second shot.

Monroe County reported two more deaths from the virus on Tuesday. Both deceased individuals were females in their 90s from Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo. That puts the death toll at 64.

Monroe County reported its 62nd death associated with COVID on Saturday. The deceased was a male in his 90s who was from Oak Hill.

That comes after two deaths from the novel coronavirus in Monroe County were reported earlier in the week. 

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner announced the deaths of a man and a woman in their 60s who were not associated with a long-term care facility on Wednesday. The announcement came after Wagner said those deaths were pending on Tuesday.

“We’re just waiting on the exact age and confirmation, but we’re certain that they’re COVID deaths,” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said Tuesday. 

On Jan. 2, Wagner confirmed the death of a man in his 90s who died from COVID-19 that the state reported earlier in the week. He also said the death of a man in his 60s from Hecker was from the virus and will be added to the count. 

Even as deaths in Monroe County, and around much of the nation, continue to rise, many of the other metrics continued to hold steady on a slight downward trend in the last week while the virus remains extremely prevalent in many parts of the country. 

Monroe County recorded 300 more cases of the virus within the last two weeks, putting the county total at 3,462. 

There were four new cases Tuesday, 12 new cases Monday, 17 news cases Sunday, 55 new cases were reported Saturday, 18 new cases Friday, 56 new cases Thursday and 29 new cases Wednesday.

There are 307 active cases in Monroe County, including 36 currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. 

The vaccine continued its rollout here this week as well, with the health department hosting another clinic at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Monday to vaccinate health care workers. 

Confusion about the vaccination process led Wagner to address two specific issues Tuesday.

One error came after a local TV news station reported Monroe County was moving to the next group for vaccination because it had finished inoculating health care employees. 

“We are substantially through 1a to where we could go to 1b, but the state has to give us approval first,” Wagner clarified. 

Another source of confusion was an Illinois Department of Public Health graphic shared by the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, and later the Republic-Times, on Facebook. 

The graphic shows the IDPH recommendations for who will be in each vaccination group, though it notes in small print that there may still be updates to the prioritization. 

Many people assumed the groups were final.

“The 1b (group) has not been confirmed,” Wagner emphasized. “It is in draft form, but it hasn’t been finalized yet.” 

That proved true Wednesday, when Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the 1b group would include people 65 and older instead of 75 and older.

Per the draft graphic, the 1a group currently being vaccinated only includes health care personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff. 

The second group, called phase 1b, would include people age 75 and older and frontline essential workers like first responders, food and agriculture workers, grocery store workers and those working in education. 

Once an increased supply of vaccine is available, the next two groups could begin getting shots. 

Next would come group 1c, which is people ages 16-59 with co-morbid conditions, people age 65-75 and other essential workers like those in the food service industry, members of the media and information technology and communications professionals. 

The final group is called phase 2. The recommendation is still pending on that, but it may include everyone else age 16 and older. 

Although there has been some confusion, Wagner said there has not been the distribution problems in Monroe County that have been reported in many areas of America. 

“We’re getting it in and getting it in peoples’ arms rapidly,” he said. “If they send it to us, we’ll get it into peoples’ arms. I’m looking forward to when we can get larger supplies.” 

Wagner said vaccine allocation is currently based on population at the state level, but he hopes Illinois will soon get more doses and then allow counties to simply order what they need. 

At that point, Wagner said the plan is to run a 24-hour vaccination clinic to inoculate the county’s population as soon as possible. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,769 cases (17,286 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,331 cases (8,214 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 140 cases (721 tests), according to the IDPH.

The IDPH on Jan.8 listed Monroe County among the majority in the state as being at the warning level for COVID-19. For the week of Dec. 27, Monroe County had 620 cases per 100,000 residents (the goal is less than 50), a test positivity rate of 14.1 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent), performed 1,534 tests (the goal is to do enough to meet the positivity rate) and 19 percent of ICU beds available (the goal is at least 20 percent).

In St. Clair County, there have been 23,479 total positive tests and 363 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 225,926 tests have been performed there. There were five new deaths reported in St. Clair County on Saturday.

Randolph County has had 3,609 confirmed cases, 212 of which are active. Sixty-four people have died from the virus.

The metro east, including these counties and Monroe County, has seen its test positivity rate remain well over the level at which mitigations are imposed.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 11.5 percent on Jan. 9. The region has 11 percent of its medical or surgical beds and just 18 percent of its ICU beds available.

Illinois overall is up to 1,040,168 cases of coronavirus and 17,743 deaths.

There are 3,553 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 757 people in ICU beds and 409 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 427,117 confirmed cases and 6,155 deaths. That includes 65,432 cases in St. Louis County and 17,024 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 22.7 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 379,020 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 91.3 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.9 million COVID-19-related deaths.

New deaths, more than 300 active COVID cases in Monroe County

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After two weeks of rising deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, Monroe County stabilized in that regard over the last week. 

There were three more COVID-related deaths, which were recorded last Wednesday and this Sunday and Monday. The deceased in all three cases was a male in his 70s not associated with a long-term care facility.

The death toll for Monroe County is now at 58.

Monroe County’s COVID case count held relatively steady, as Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner reported 412 new cases since Dec. 15. 

There are 25 residents hospitalized with the virus among the 317 current active cases. The county has had 3,056 cases since the pandemic began. Monroe County reported 30 new cases Tuesday, 15 new cases Monday, nine new cases Sunday, 31 new cases Sautrday, 27 new cases Friday, 50 new cases Thursday following 27 new cases Wednesday.

Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Administrator Brian Koontz said during last Monday’s county board meeting that some of those new cases are from his facility. Last week’s testing identified one resident and three staff as positive, per Koontz.  

Koontz also reported the Illinois Department of Public Health has directed Oak Hill to increase COVID testing frequency due to area positivity percentages.

With two major holidays in the next 10 days, Wagner said he is not expecting a spike in cases – though he expects to see a similar change as this area did after Thanksgiving. 

“I think we’re going to see a little bit of a change, but I wouldn’t call it a spike. We might see a slight increase,” he said. “I think we’ll see the same thing I watched the numbers after Thanksgiving do: it kind of transitioned to a little bit older population coming up positive.”

Deaths and hospitalizations jumped after the November holiday after more senior citizens got sick, though that is not conclusively attributable to Thanksgiving. 

Wagner advised taking precautions at holiday gatherings to decrease the chance of more people in the older population contracting COVID-19.

“Be aware of what your family’s behavior is,” he suggested. “If you have a niece or nephew who frequents parties with friends and everything else, don’t bring him or her over and put him in the same room with grandpa. You can still get together, but be smart about it.”

While the pandemic is still at much higher levels here than it was for much of the year, Wagner said the flu season has been “light so far.” 

“Flu’s actually down right now, and a lot of that has to do with it being a respiratory disease. A lot of people are wearing masks, washing their hands more often and staying out of group settings,” Wagner explained, adding he does not suggest that it becomes a regular practice after the pandemic is over. 

There will be free mobile COVID testing outside of the Monroe County Annex, 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 30.

The COVID vaccine arrived in Monroe County on Wednesday, with 100 doses administered to medical personnel who have contact with patients. Read more by clicking here.

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,552 cases (15,451 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,199 cases (7,197 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 120 cases (630 tests), according to the IDPH.

The IDPH on Dec. 25 listed Monroe County, along with all but eight counties in the state, as being at the warning level for COVID-19. For the week of Dec. 13, Monroe County had 737 cases per 100,000 residents (the goal is less than 50), a test positivity rate of 14.3 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent), performed 1,727 tests (the goal is to do enough to meet the positivity rate) and 19 percent of ICU beds available (the goal is at least 20 percent).

In St. Clair County, there have been 20,449 total positive tests and 323 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 204,387 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 3,245 confirmed cases, 224 of which are active. Forty-six people have died from the virus in that county.

The metro east, including these counties and Monroe County, has seen its test positivity rate remain well over the level at which mitigations are imposed. 

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 12.1 percent on Dec. 26. The region has 17 percent of its medical or surgical beds available and 25 percent of its ICU beds.

Illinois overall is up to 948,006 cases of coronavirus and 16,179 deaths.

There are 4,313 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, including 904 people in ICU beds and 506 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 386,095 confirmed cases and 5,433 deaths. That includes 59,430 cases in St. Louis County and 15,625 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 19.4 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 336,443 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 81.6 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.7 million COVID-19-related deaths.

WJHS girls basketball | Team of the Week

The Republic-Times Team of the Week is the Waterloo Junior High School girls basketball squad. WJHS ended its season Saturday with a loss to Casey Middle School at the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association Class L State Tournament played at Rend Lake College. The team advanced to the state tourney by virtue of winning the Belleville regional earlier this month. Team members were Lizzie Davis, Kadence Lance, Delaney Ullrich, Bella Riesing, Addie Juelfs, Alyssa McClory, Bella Hicks, Emory Bockhorn, Addie Stell, Paige Lindhorst, Nichole Gum, Kenley Mueller, Maddie Jones, Maggie Blair and Brooklynn Truman.

Jack Steckler | Athlete of the Week

The Republic-Times Athlete of the Week is Columbia High School basketball player Jack Steckler. The senior scored a team-high 18 points during Saturday’s victory in the title game of the Okawville Invitational Tournament and tied for the team high with 17 points Friday and 18 points last Tuesday in the tourney for the Eagles, who are 21-2 on the season. Steckler is averaging 12.4 points per game in the 2022-23 campaign, including 77.3 percent shooting from the free throw line. He’s also averaging nearly 1.5 steals per contest.

Saffron | Pet of the Week

Saffron is an active and playful girl. She loves to play fetch. Saffron is housebroken and crate trained. She gets along with other dogs.

Saffron is one year old and weighs 35 pounds.


The adoption fee for adult dogs, seven months and older, is $250. All pets are microchipped, up to date on vaccines, and will be altered prior to adoption. All pets are microchipped, up to date on vaccines, and will be altered prior to adoption. If you are interested in setting up a meet and greet, please complete an online adoption application and Helping Strays will call you to make an appointment.

Thursday crash in Columbia

Emergency personnel responded shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday to a two-vehicle crash with possible injury on Route 3 southbound at South Main Street in Columbia.

Responding agencies included the Columbia Police Department, Columbia EMS and Columbia Fire Department.

Two people refused medical transport from the scene against medical advice from EMS personnel.

Check for more information as it becomes available.

Wednesday night crash in Columbia

Emergency personnel responded about 6:55 p.m. Wednesday to a two-vehicle crash on the Route 3 northbound ramp onto I-255 northbound in Columbia.

Dispatch reports indicated both vehicles came to rest off the roadway and were partially submerged in water. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Responding agencies included the Columbia Police Department, Columbia EMS and Columbia Fire Department.

Names of judge candidates released

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On Wednesday, 24th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Daniel J. Emge released the names of candidates who applied for two judgeship vacancies created when the new 24th Circuit was created in early December.

Included on the list of 13 candidates are Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer and Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Becker-Roscow.

Amanda Chase of the Waterloo law firm Strellis & Field, Chartered and Catherine Evans of CE Evans Law in Columbia have also applied.

Another candidate with local ties is Heather Dabler, who practices family law in Belleville. Dabler was on the ballot in 2016 as the Democratic candidate for Monroe County State’s Attorney but lost to Chris Hitzemann, who is now associate chief judge for the 24th Circuit and serves as resident judge for Monroe County.

In the Wednesday release, Emge stated the ballots for the positions were sent out Jan. 23, and “the Circuit Judges of the 24th Judicial Circuit have 14 days from the date the ballots were sent out to vote and return the ballots to the Administrative Office.”

The circuit judges will vote for candidates until two are elected.

Read more in next week’s issue of the Republic-Times.

Ada Camille Elizabeth Ziebold | Birth

James and Katherine Ziebold of Columbia announce the birth of their daughter Ada Camille Elizabeth Ziebold. Ada was born at 8:35 a.m. Jan. 17, 2023, at Mercy Hospital, St. Louis, weighing 8 lbs., 6 oz., and measuring 20 inches. Paternal grandparents are Steve and Patricia Ziebold. Maternal grandparents are Charles and Linda Wallace.

Rollins 60th anniversary

Tom and Marian Rollins of Columbia celebrated 60 years of marriage with a family get-together. The couple was married Dec. 29, 1962. Pictured at a recent celebration in Columbia are, from left, front row, Miranda Brannaker, Tom Rollins, Marian Rollins and Will Kroner: back row: Jack Brannaker, Alan Brannaker, Chris Brannaker, Tammy Kroner, Wendy Brannaker, Grace Kroner, Aly Kroner and John Kroner.

Beverly S. ‘Susie’ Menke | Obituary

Beverly S. Bev “Susie” Menke (nee Ward), 70, of Columbia, died Jan. 24, 2023, in Columbia. She was born Oct. 1, 1952, in St. Louis.

She is survived by her husband Orville A. Menke; daughter Nicky (Richard) Neal; grandchildren Craig (Brinney) Menke, Austin (Bethany) Hoggard, Rachael (Mathew) Buffa, and Devin Propst and Jenna Marshalek; five great-grandchildren; mother Bernice Ward; sisters Brenda Kalkbrenner and Barb Weber; sisters-in-law; brothers-in-law; nieces; nephews; cousins; and countless adopted children.

Beverly is preceded in death by her sons Bradley Menke and Brian Menke; daughter Tina R. Hoggard; father Clois Ward; brother Rick (Lynn) Ward; and great-grandchild Wesley Menke.

Visitation is 5-8 p.m. Jan. 28 at Quernheim Funeral Home in Waterloo.

As an expression of sympathy the family prefers memorial contributions to donor’s choice.

VHS adds 3 to sports hall of fame

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Pictured, from left, are Kim McNiel, Chris Rohlfing (son of the late Ron Rohlfing) and Wayne Rohlfing during Friday’s Valmeyer High School Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

Valmeyer High School hosted its sixth induction ceremony for the VHS Athletic Hall of Fame between the junior varsity and varsity boys basketball games Friday night, adding three people to the school’s legacy of sports greatness.

Prior to the induction of Kim McNiel, the late Ron Rohlfing and Wayne Rohlfing, ceremony emcee Dennis Knobloch asked those in attendance to pause for a moment of silence in honor of two prior Hall of Fame inductees who recently passed: Ray “Bud” Rippelmeyer and Ross Schneider.

Knobloch added that the class of VHS seniors graduating this spring will be the school’s 100th overall.

McNiel, a 2001 graduate, lettered in basketball (1998-2001), softball (2000) and volleyball (1999-2001) for the Pirates and went on to play volleyball at Lakeland College and Missouri Baptist University. 

She finished with 1,014 career rebounds in basketball. 

In college volleyball, McNiel was named American Midwest Conference First Team All-Conference and the NAIA Regional V All-Region Team in 2004.

Accepting the induction plaque for Ron Rohlfing, who died in 2020, was his son Chris. 

Ron graduated from VHS in 1968, lettering four years in both baseball and basketball for the Pirates.

During his senior year, Ron hit .459 and had a 14-3 pitching record on the baseball team and averaged 18.4 points per game on the basketball court.  

He received the Vernie Moffitt Free Throw Award in 1968 for having the best free throw shooting percentage in Monroe County.

Ron went on to play four years of baseball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, finishing with a .309 career batting average and 6-1 pitching record with a 1.88 ERA.

He played on the 1972 SIUE team that placed third in the nation for NCAA Division II. That team was inducted into the SIUE Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

Ron played in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system in 1973, then played 19 years in the Mon-Clair League – 17 of those for the Valmeyer Lakers.

He was inducted into the Mon-Clair League Hall of Fame in 1992.

Wayne Rohlfing is a 1974 graduate from VHS who lettered four years in baseball and three years in basketball for the Pirates.

He was a member of the 1971 Pirates baseball team that was inducted into the VHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Wayne was a member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro Baseball Team  in 1973 and 1974 and received the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Scholar-Athlete Award in 1974.

He was also an all-conference basketball player in 1974.

Wayne played baseball at Belleville Area College from 1974-76 and then at Centenary College of Louisiana in 1976-78.

He went on to play in the Chicago Cubs minor league system, posting a career batting average of .280 with 15 home runs and 98 RBIs. 

He was a New York-Pennsylvania Baseball League All-Star in 1980.

Wayne played for 20 years with the Valmeyer Lakers in the Mon-Clair League and was inducted into the Mon-Clair Hall of Fame in 1998.

He served as a coach with the St. Louis Pirates Baseball Club from 2007-2015.

Girls hoops season winding down

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With just a handful of regular season games left on the schedule, the local high school girls basketball teams are trending in different directions ahead of regional play. 

Columbia (16-8) is on an upward trajectory, having won four of five recent games.

On Thursday, the Eagles won 74-16 at home over Dupo. Columbia closed out the second half on a 22-0 run. 

Karsen Jany, Ava Langhans and Sam Schmuke all scored 16 points to pace the Eagles offense. Jany is averaging 17.5 points per game this season – including 77.6 percent shooting from the free throw line.

The Eagles hosted rival Waterloo on Tuesday night, falling 47-45 in a hard-fought contest. Columbia led 25-22 at halftime and built up a nine-point advantage midway through the third quarter before the Bulldogs stormed back late. Jordan Holten led the Eagles with 14 points.

Columbia hosts Salem on Thursday and plays Monday at Freeburg. 

Waterloo (15-9) entered Tuesday’s showdown at Columbia having lost three of four recent games. Leading the Bulldogs in the rivalry win were seniors Norah Gum (17 points, 16 rebounds) and Sam Lindhorst (11 points, seven assists).

On Monday, the Bulldogs lost 65-57 at home to East St. Louis. Waterloo trailed 22-8 after the first quarter.

Gum scored 35 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, who were outrebounded 36-27 on the night. Gum is averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game this season.

Waterloo closed out Highland tournament play last Wednesday with a 56-44 loss to Collinsville. 

Lindhorst scored 18 points for the Bulldogs, who play Friday night at Mascoutah.

Gibault (13-7) lost 65-38 to Althoff on Thursday. The Hawks play Thursday at Bunker Hill. 

Valmeyer (5-13) dropped a 57-41 contest to Red Bud on Monday despite leading 15-14 after the first quarter.

Brooke Miller and Avery Proffer each scored 12 points to pace the Pirates, who host Marissa on Thursday. 

Miller leads Valmeyer in scoring this season at 14.7 points per game. 

Dupo (9-10) hosts Lebanon on Thursday, hosts Steeleville on Monday and hosts Maryville Christian this coming Tuesday. 

The Tigers are 2-6 over their past eight games.

Landgraf back for CHS spikers

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Columbia High School announced last week that Kelly Landgraf will return as head coach of the varsity volleyball squad in 2023. 

Landgraf’s last season with the Eagles was in 2016, when her team posted a record of 36-1.

A math teacher in the Columbia school district, Landgraf returns as head volleyball coach with an overall record of 376-114 and 11 regional titles, four sectional championships and a second place state finish in 2005.

The Eagles went 21-13 this past season under head coach Elysia Sepich. 

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