Headlines for Thursday, January 7th

28-year-old Carmi resident Whitney P. McKenzie was killed in a two-vehicle accident yesterday in Harrisburg. State police say she failed to yield to oncoming traffic in a 2011 Chevy Malibu and turned into the path of a 2001 Mack semi, driven by 28-year-old Carl B. Wood. McKenzie was pronounced deceased on-scene, and Wood refused treatment.

Fairfield Memorial Hospital says it began giving the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday to employees and medical staff who received the first dose on December 16th. As with the county health department, FMH says it has not been informed of a date when it can offer the vaccine to the public, but it will share that information when it becomes available.

The City of Fairfield asks that decorations be removed from light poles by the end of this week. It also reminds people to set out items for bulk pickup tonight, as Sunrise Sanitation will run this month’s route in the early morning hours tomorrow due to last week’s holiday. Anyone with questions can call City Hall at 842-2294.

Wayne County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who recently damaged a vehicle owned by Ethan Young. Windows were reportedly busted out, and the stereo was stolen. Anyone with information on the incident should call or text Crime Stoppers at 842-9777.

Illinois State Police District 19 has announced its activity and enforcement figures for the month of December. Troopers recorded 888 incidents during the month and issued 191 citations and 319 written warnings for “Fatal Four” violations. The violations are most associated with fatal traffic crashes and include DUI, speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt, and distracted driving.

The Wabash County School District reportedly says roughly 50 percent of its students received an F in a class last semester, and 20 percent of students dropped off the grid. The district tried several teaching methods last semester, and they are utilizing in-person instruction four days of the week this semester, with Mondays fully remote.

The Wayne County Health Department announced 17 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing its total to 1,280; 125 cases were active, including three hospitalizations. Edwards County reported 36 new cases from Friday to yesterday and sat at 444; 50 cases were in isolation. Wabash County announced 15 cases and sat at 1,082 with 78 active cases, including three hospitalizations. The state Department of Public Health announced 7,569 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 yesterday and 137 additional deaths. Statewide totals sat at 999,288 cases and 17,096 deaths. The Southern Region had a positivity rate of 11.5 percent on January 3rd, unchanged from the 2nd. 1-6-2021-WCHD-New-COVID-19-and-Probable-Case-Press-Release

Governor J.B. Pritzker says he will lower the age limit for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations. Phase 1B hasn’t started yet, but, when it does, he says front-line workers and seniors 65 and older will be vaccinated instead of the recommended 75 and older. The state is currently in Phase 1A, and he said Phase 1B could begin in a few weeks, but the timeline isn’t set in stone. Governor Pritzker also said regions in the state that meet the necessary metrics could see Tier 3 mitigations lifted on January 15th. A reminder of mitigation requirements and metrics for moving to Tier 2 can be found at https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/restore-illinois-mitigation-plan

40-year-old Shane Highsmith made an appearance in Clay County Circuit Court yesterday. He is accused of stabbing three people on December 27th in Flora, and he faces one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and one count of possession of a weapon by a felon. His bond was set at $500,000. Clay County officials said all three victims are out of the hospital, and the investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing.

FNB in Grayville will hold an open house reception tomorrow from noon to 3 in honor of Colleen Whyte. White was hired as a special assistant for Peoples National Bank of Grayville in 1978 and became part of the Fairfield National Bank/Tri-County Banking Center in 2005. COVID-19 precautions will be enforced for the reception.

Last winter turned out to be mild in southern Illinois, and Chris Miller, with the National Weather Service, says temperatures could be similar this year. He also says this year could have above normal precipitation, especially in the late winter months. Even if those systems don’t bring snow, he says it’s a good idea for people to have a kit in their cars in case they are ever stranded.

Republicans in the Illinois legislature have said they think Democrats will come to the upcoming Lame Duck session to pass a statewide income tax increase, but Democrat Andy Manar says he doesn’t see that happening. Instead, he would like to look at the tax code and loopholes therein to help prevent major cuts to things like education. Manar recently announced his plans to resign on January 17th to become an advisor to Governor J.B. Pritzker. His new position will begin on the 19th. Per a Pritzker spokesperson, his new salary will be $278,000 per year, with half of that total coming out of the governor’s pocket.

New 15th Congressional District Representative Mary Miller has drawn criticism for a comment made at a “Moms for America” rally in Washington DC yesterday in which she reportedly said Hitler was right in that “whoever has the youth has the future.” Her office did respond to requests from Washington for more information or a copy of her entire speech. Miller was sworn in Sunday to replace John Shimkus in Congress.

River stages as of this morning:  the Little Wabash east of Fairfield stands at 21.37 feet, above the 17 ft. flood stage. Meanwhile, the Skillet Fork at Wayne City has a reading of 5.97 feet (flood stage is 15 ft.). The Little Wabash below Clay City is at 9.57 feet (flood stage is 18 ft.). Bonpas Creek at Browns reads 3.28 feet, and the Little Wabash at Main Street in Carmi reads 19.20 feet. The Wabash River at Mt. Carmel sits at 12.15 feet.

Today’s crude oil price is $43.75, up $0.75 from yesterday. The February crude oil price is $51.09, up $1.21 from yesterday morning.