The Hangar Restaurant voluntarily closed its doors temporarily to clean the building after learning an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

EFFINGHAM — Morgan Crum of Altamont has found herself taking even more health and safety precautions as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Effingham County.

The 22-year-old is pregnant with her first child, causing her to be even more cautious of places she visits and those she’s around.

“I’m 23 weeks pregnant and I work with the elderly, so I’ve been cautious as much as I can because I don’t want to risk the well-being of my baby or myself and I wouldn’t want to risk my residents getting it from me if I came into contact with it unknowingly,” Crum said.

Crum said she and her husband, Brady, are already making plans for their son’s arrival in the coming months. Those plans include limiting visitors, including their family members, should cases in the county continue to tick upward.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Effingham County totaled 36 positive cases, with 23 recovered and 12 infected individuals in isolation and one death. The county added its most recent cases on Monday: a female in her 40s and a male in his 50s, who had no known contact with a COVID-positive person.

Crum described the case increase as nerve-wracking and a cause to make her pregnancy even more stressful.

Crum said she fears the pandemic and the rising local cases will take away some of the more joyful aspects of being a new parent.

“I honestly feel like the pandemic has taken away from so much of the excitement of being first-time parents,” Crum said. “Not to mention, there are so many ‘firsts’ that we may not get to experience. There may be no excitement for a baby shower and gathering with friends and family who are excited, stuff like that. It’s so disappointing.”

Crum said she constantly has to evaluate and think about the places she goes to and how it can affect her and her unborn child. Because of rising Effingham County cases, Crum said she never goes into a business without a mask and avoids larger stores like Walmart if possible.

Crum said she also carries hand sanitizer with her at all times.

In recent days, the coronavirus has forced a local eatery to shutter its doors temporarily.

The Effingham County Health Department this week announced The Hangar Restaurant in Watson was notified of a COVID-positive patient who worked at the café within the last week.

Through contact tracing, the health department learned that the infected individual worked at the restaurant on July 9 between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m. This time frame encompassed what the department called the contact period, or two days prior to showing symptoms or receiving a positive COVID test and being within six feet of distance for longer than 15 minutes.

There were no people or vehicles at the restaurant on Tuesday afternoon, and a “closed” sign hung on the door.

In a health department release, The Hangar owner, Betty Lewis, said the facility has closed temporarily for cleaning and disinfecting the premises.

“The safety of my customers is top priority. I want them to enjoy their dining experience and place their COVID worries aside for a few minutes,” Lewis said in the release.

Once the disinfecting processes is complete, the restaurant will reopen, adhering to recommended guidance for safe operating during the pandemic.

The health department encouraged anyone who was a customer during the four-hour period the employee worked on July 9 to call the department at 217-342-9237.

The department said it recognizes the burden COVID-19 has placed on local businesses and applauds those that make the effort to promote the health and safety of people in our community.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday gave only vague answers to reporters’ questions about potential future restrictions Illinois might put in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in certain areas.

He took the inquiries Tuesday morning at an unrelated news conference in Chicago, hours before the Illinois Department of Public Health announced another 707 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 more virus-related deaths. That brought the total COVID-19-related casualties in Illinois to 7,218 among 155,506 confirmed cases.

There were 28,446 test results reported over the previous 24 hours, making for a one-day positivity rate of 2.5 percent, which kept the rolling seven-day rate at 3 percent for the fourth straight day after multiple weeks below that number.

The positivity rate as of Tuesday was 4 percent in the North-Central and Northeast regions of the state’s Restore Illinois reopening plan, while it was 5 percent in the Southern Region and 2 percent in the Central Region, which includes Effingham, Fayette, Clay, Shelby, Jasper and Cumberland counties.

Pritzker was asked if a recent rise in cases and positivity rate would lead him to once again close Illinois restaurants to indoor dining.

“We’re watching these numbers very, very closely. …I don’t wake up on any day, and not look at those numbers first thing,” he said. “We’ve been very measured about how we’ve reopened our state. And there are many people that complain that where we are now isn’t open enough. And so I would just say that there — I will not hesitate to reimpose some mitigations, if we see our numbers moving upward.”

When asked if there were any defined metrics that the state or a region might meet to warrant a step backward in any areas of reopening, Pritzker said only “sustained upward movement of numbers” could drive that process.

“I listen to our Department of Public Health director as well as to the many epidemiologists who are advising us and watching very closely the states in the South and the West that are struggling right now, and wondering where could we or should we … turn the dimmer switch, as they say, on some of these items,” he said. “And the answer is that, you know, if we see a sustained upward movement of numbers. That’s something that is an alert for all of us in the governor’s office and in our administration to begin to look at the mitigations we need to put in place.”

Pritzker did say in the early days of the pandemic there was not enough data on indoor dining and its capacity to drive widespread transmission of the virus. While he said “the data is now in,” he did not indicate there were any immediate plans of action regarding indoor dining.

Meanwhile, hospitalization numbers saw a slight uptick at the end of Monday, but were still near their pandemic lows. There were 1,416 hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients, 333 of which were intensive care unit beds. There were 126 COVID-19 patients on ventilators.

That meant about 2.2 percent of the state’s ventilators, 8.5 percent of its ICU beds and 4 percent of its total hospital beds were in use by COVID-19 patients.

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this story.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.


Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.

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