As the state prepares to enter Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan on Friday, we want to reflect for a moment.

We should never forget those fellow Illinoisans we have lost to this horrid pandemic. By Tuesday, 6,707 people in Illinois had died from COVID-19. That’s a staggering number, hard to get our minds around. Even more staggering is that at least 118,000 people have died across the country.

While the number of hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing in certain parts of the nation, they have been steadily declining in our state – enough to move forward to the next phase. That’s thanks in part to the health care professionals who have worked so hard under such adverse conditions. We’ll never know how many lives they saved, how much more staggering the toll might have been.

In fact, we’ll never know just how crucial the precautions we all have taken have been to slowing the spread of the virus here.

Just one death of a Shelby County resident has been related to COVID-19. Even one is too many, of course. That was one of 16 cases of the virus confirmed in this county, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website. There have been 11 cases and one death in Effingham County; 23 cases and three deaths in Fayette County.

If it seems we have been spared the brunt of the dreadful impact of the virus that has touched so many other places, remember that Phase 4 does not mean everything is back to normal. It’s a sign of progress, but we still urge the precautions that experts say are necessary to stopping the further spread of the virus.

We remember the words of Dr. Emily Landon, lead epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine, who spoke during the press conference back in March when Pritzker announced the state’s stay-at-home order.

“A successful shelter-in-place means that you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing,” she said. “And you’d be right – because ‘nothing’ means that nothing happened to your family, and that’s what we are going for here.”

As we move forward, it does not feel to us like “nothing” happened. In some ways, it has been incredibly hard. So many of our friends and family have suffered in ways not directly related to the virus.

But we know there are better days ahead.

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