Schools, churches, bars and restaurants closed as coronavirus closes in on area

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Pictured is a note from JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill in Waterloo regarding recently enacted restaurant regulations.

(For the latest article that appeared in the March 18 Republic-Times, click here.)

Local churches are the latest to close amid COVID-19 concerns.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville announced Tuesday that all masses would be suspended until April 6, but the date is open to re-evaluation. HOPE Christian Church south of Columbia also announced it was suspending services until further notice, but they will still provide online services.

As coronavirus cases spike, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close to the public from the end of business Monday through March 30. Local restaurants began offering curbside and in-store pickup and delivery services Tuesday.

“This is another hard step to take. I know how difficult this will be on small businesses around the state. But we must do everything we can to safeguard the health of the citizens of Illinois, and that requires this urgent action,” Pritzker said. “This is not a joke.”

These actions come after the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state jumped from 105 on Monday to 160 on Tuesday.

Pritzker will join metro-east officials to discuss the statewide response to COVID-19 at the St. Clair County Health Department in Belleville at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The IDPH also announced the first Illinois resident, a Chicago woman in her 60s, has died from the illness.

Calling it “a hard pill to swallow,” JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill in Waterloo posted on Facebook that it may offer a carryout service if enough interest is expressed.

Hopskeller Brewing in Waterloo said it plans to have beer and food available for curbside pickup for those who call in advance and plans to offer a limited delivery menu for food for those in the 62298 zip code.

“We have beer and bourbon to go,” Stubborn German Brewing in Waterloo posted on Facebook.

Thai House in Columbia said it will offer to-go orders and curbside pickup in addition to delivery to Columbia residents.

“If it works out, they may expand delivery service to Millstadt and Waterloo,” a person posted on Facebook on behalf of Thai House.

Tiny’s Pub & Grill in Columbia said it is “evaluating and assessing the situation.”

Who Dat’s Southern Food in Columbia said it plans to offer curbside pickup and local deliveries beginning Tuesday.

Hank & Lilly’s Creekside in Maeystown said it offers to-go orders. Other places in Monroe County do the same.

For a running list of places planning to offer curbside pick-up, click here.

Two confirmed cases in neighboring St. Clair County and multiple precautionary quarantines in Monroe County indicate the coronavirus pandemic is moving ever closer by the day.

In Waterloo, the city announced Monday that it is suspending all disconnections for non-payment for its utility customers. It is also waiving the penalty for late payment of bills due April 5 and encouraging citizens to use the drop boxes outside city hall for payments. 

Effective immediately, all visitation at the Monroe County Jail is cancelled except for legal counsel. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department asks that those who come to post bond for an inmate to arrive alone and not with multiple people or if you have any symptoms of the flu.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White also announced Monday that all driver services facilities statewide will be closed March 17-31. Expiration dates for driver’s licenses, ID cards, vehicle transactions and other transactions and document filings will be extended 30 days.

Of the 160 positive cases in Illinois of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the vast majority of them are up north in the Chicago area. But the IDPH on Saturday announced the first positive cases in central and southern Illinois.

Two St. Clair County residents – women in their 60s and 70s – are among the newest positive cases announced in the state. St. Clair County officials said these women recently returned from international travel. Another suspected positive case in St. Clair County has not yet been announced.

“The virus is here in Illinois. While it may not be in your community now, we anticipate it will be eventually,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.

Nationally, there have been 5,726, confirmed cases by lab tests with 107 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon. COVID-19 originated in China, but countries such as Italy and Spain have also been hit extremely hard. For more on that, click here.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and are spread through close personal contact — such as shaking hands, coughing and sneezing.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner told the Republic-Times on Saturday that two younger local residents are currently in voluntary self-quarantine after having recently returned from studying abroad. Neither of these residents have exhibited coronavirus symptoms at this point, Wagner stressed.

Wagner also disclosed that one person not from Monroe County was tested here after having visited a local medical facility while passing through from Florida to California following a 60-day cruise. That test came back negative for coronavirus on Saturday, Wagner said.

“We screen potential individuals that we receive from calls from a medical provider and then pass the information on to the Illinois Department of Public Health, who determines if they meet testing requirements,” Wagner explained. “If they do, we then coordinate with a hospital to perform specimen samples and ship to an IDPH lab. There are now private labs that doctors can refer patients directly to for testing.”

On Sunday, Wagner added there is an elderly Monroe County resident that has a coronavirus test pending through a St. Louis hospital.

Wagner advised those fearful of having COVID-19 should call their physician and first get tested for the seasonal flu before taking it further.

“There is no shortage of testing (for coronavirus) in this area,” he said.

The closure of restaurants, bars and nightclubs in St. Louis is also taking place this week, officials said, and leaders on both sides of the river in the St. Louis area have banned events and social gatherings of more than 50 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends no events of 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks.

The Waterloo Sportsman’s Club announced Monday that they will suspend fish fry gatherings until further notice.

“We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are not properly set up for the many phone orders and we have no safe or proper way to handle carry-outs,” David Dietz said in a statement.

Schools closed

The coronavirus threat has led to the closure of all Illinois schools through March 30.

In response to growing concerns over COVID-19, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that all K-12 schools, public and private, will be closed March 17-30. As of now, day care centers will remain open.

In a press conference, Pritzker said he understood “the gravity of the situation,” but that school closures are “the right thing to do to protect students and their families.”

Waterloo School District Athletic Director Mitch North said an indoor track meet set for this weekend at Principia College was not canceled but designated as “participants only.” 

“Because of this and other concerns, the track coaches and I have talked and we will not be attending the meet on Saturday,” North said.  

On the heels of Pritzker’s school closure announcement, North said all sports practices and competitions for student-athletes are canceled until school returns to session. The spring sports season was set to begin in earnest next week. 

The same goes for other local schools.

“Every activity is postponed and will possibly be rescheduled,” Valmeyer athletic director Nathan McSchooler said. “No practices, games, banquets, etc.”

Hope Christian Church announced Saturday that it will provide free daycare for children of first responders and healthcare professionals while the governor’s order for school closures is in effect.

Senior sites take precautions

Multiple senior sites and senior living communities in Monroe County are taking precautions due to the coronavirus. Older people and people of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, are at a higher risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19, according to the CDC.

The Waterloo Senior Center has canceled all gathering activities for older adults until further notice.

“There shall be no eating at the sites,” the senior center posted on Facebook. “Home delivered meals will still be provided. Carry-out meals will also be available. This is a preventative measure to minimize exposure and risks for the safety of seniors.”

To reserve a carry-out meal in Waterloo, call 939-8880.

Columbia Senior Center Director Anna Dunn said her site has also been instructed to close congregate dining until further notice but will continue to deliver meals to seniors at their homes.

“Also, people who normally attend the dining site may come in and pick up their meals or we can deliver them to their homes,” Dunn said.

To reserve a carry-out meal in Columbia, call 281-7414.

The Illinois Department of Aging directed senior centers to take these steps based on directives from the IDPH and CDC..

Effective Friday, Oak Hill Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo was closed to all visitors and employees will be screened for signs of respiratory illness or fever.

Oak Hill also canceled its Soup and Pie Supper scheduled for March 25 and its annual Senior Jubilee later this spring. The Senior Jubilee is a long-running annual gathering featuring entertainment and local businesses.

The March 26 meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association “In the Moment” support group that meets at Oak Hill has also been canceled.

Oak Hill will still host its Salad Day fundraiser March 18.

Garden Place Senior Living, with locations in Waterloo and Columbia, is also restricting visitors. As of Friday, only staff and physical therapists are being allowed into the facility. The Columbia site has also canceled its fish fry fundraiser scheduled for March 27.

Cedarhurst of Waterloo, located at 581 Legacy Drive, is also restricting access to residents, with limited visitation granted under special circumstances or if deemed medically necessary.

“We also recommend that residents do not leave the community unless it is medically necessary to avoid being exposed to those who have not been screened for signs and symptoms of the coronavirus,” Cedarhurst posted on Facebook.

Integrity Healthcare of Columbia, located at 253 Bradington Drive, has implemented an all-visitor restriction, with staff members also screened prior to work.

“We encourage everyone to reach out to your loved ones via phone, Skype, Facetime, etc.,” Integrity posted on Facebook.

Event changes

Several upcoming events in Monroe County were canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus.

A St. Patrick’s Parade set for Sunday in downtown Waterloo was postponed to September due to coronavirus concerns.

“Health and safety of our members and the general public is and always will be a very high priority on our list,” parade co-chairman Patrick Hume of the Ancient Order of Hibernians-Michael Keeley Division posted on Facebook.

The Waterloo Citizens for a Pool postponed its St. Paddy’s Day 5K Walk/Run scheduled for Saturday.

The Waterloo Band Parents Community Talent Show scheduled for Saturday night at Waterloo High School was canceled.

The Waterloo Chamber of Commerce postponed its annual dinner that was set for March 19 at Annbriar. No makeup date has been announced.

In Columbia, a father-daughter dance slated for Saturday at Immaculate Conception School was canceled.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia canceled a rummage sale scheduled for March 21.

Columbia Public Library has suspended all programs, with the exception of its free AARP tax preparation program, through the end of March.

Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo has temporarily suspended all program events, including story times, Little Movers, Page Turners and youth book clubs.

The Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School Gala on Saturday at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo went ahead as planned.

Other precautions, info

The local University of Illinois Extension Office, which operates out of the Monroe County Annex at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo, said it is restricting all large gatherings.

“As we continue to monitor and react to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Illinois has proactively adopted a policy restricting events with more than 50 attendees until further notice,” extension director Amy Cope stated in an email. “In addition, we will also yield to the CDC’s advice of discouraging any events or meetings where the majority of participants are considered high-risk.”

Schnucks, which has grocery store locations in Waterloo and Columbia, asked customers for patience as it works to keep up with demand for cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and toilet paper in its stores, among other items. Schnucks is also temporarily suspending all in-store food samplings and cleaning and sanitizing touchpoints within its stores – including door handles, water fountains and restrooms. Schnucks has offered cart wipes for several years.

“Given the circumstances, we are intensifying those cleaning processes,” Schnucks stated in an email to customers.

Local grocery stores have been swarmed with customers buying toilet paper and other items for the past few days. There was no toilet paper to purchase at Schnucks or Dollar General in Columbia on Saturday evening.

The Monroe County YMCA south of Columbia is suspending certain programming, older adult exercise classes and all facility rentals. The YMCA facilities will remain open for members under a modified group exercise and child watch schedule. The suspended programs include youth sports, swim lessons, martial arts, gymnastics, dance, all active older adult activities and programming, LiveSTRONG, Parkinson’s and the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program.

For more information, call the YMCA at 618-281-9622.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Columbia urged parishioners to stay away from Mass if they feel “any sickness, fear or just out of best practice for the safety of all.”

Red Bud Regional Hospital said families, visitors of patients and the general public are restricted from visiting the hospital or care center for any reason other than to obtain medical services. With the exception of a March 26 blood drive, all community-based activities/meetings within its building are postponed until further notice.

“We do not have any suspected cases of the coronavirus,” the hospital said. “These precautions are focused on keeping our vulnerable patients in the healthiest environment possible.”

Pictured is the empty toilet paper aisle at the Waterloo Walmart early Thursday evening. (Val Chism photo)

The state is mandating all large-scale events exceeding 50 individuals be canceled for the next 30 days. Additionally, community events of 250 people or more should be canceled or postponed until May 1. For events less than 250 people, state officials said residents should closely consider who is likely to attend the event and, if it includes vulnerable populations, strongly consider canceling. The state also recommended all major sporting events with large crowds be canceled through May 1.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has urged anyone who has business to conduct with a driver services facility to do so online, although the facilities remain open for now. Many transactions with the Secretary of State’s office may be conducted online at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

The primary election March 17 proceeded as scheduled, with extra precautions taken. For more on this story, click here.

The city of St. Louis has banned events of more than 250 people in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. This comes after the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that was scheduled to come to town was canceled. There are currently five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri with zero deaths.

For general questions about COVID-19, call 1-800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.

SSM Health, with eight hospitals in the St. Louis area, is offering a free “virtual visit” for individuals who are concerned they may be experiencing symptoms of or been exposed to COVID-19. To participate, click here.

Mercy Hospital has opened a drive-through COVID-19 test collection site at 15740 S. Outer Forty Road in Chesterfield, Mo. Anyone seeking a test must call 314-251-0500 before arriving. This test site is exclusively for patients who have a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, respiratory symptoms that include cough or shortness of breath and either traveled to a high-risk area or had contact with a known coronavirus patient.

For our article on Monroe County prepping for the coronavirus that appeared in our March 4 paper, click here.

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