Dear Chamber Supporters:
As usual, February has just flown by. In fact, hard to believe we are done with 2 months of 2021 already…and it sounds as if February this year is going to finish with absolutely beautiful weather. Cherry and I were postulating earlier this week that we’d better get our seed potatoes and onion sets bought…for when the weather breaks! Once we get to March it begins to feel like spring about half the time…and it’s time to plant. I am so ready for this!!
A year ago now the world was on the precipice of a pandemic disaster the likes of which, at the time, we had no comprehension of nor could we imagine the magnitude or severity we were facing. Cherry and I had traveled to Surprise, Arizona for me to participate in the spring Ottawa University board meetings. Following the meetings, we remained in Surprise for a couple of Royals spring training games…little did I know at the time, those games would be the only ball games in which we got to sit in the stands and enjoy a game – for the entire year. We flew home the last day of February and the world literally shut down behind us…we felt lucky to have made it home.
One year later…looking back, I still can’t fathom the catastrophe which shrouded our nation and the world! This pandemic will affect our lives and the life of our nation for years to come…and, (assuming we are near the end – we can only pray we are) the likes of which historians will cuss and discuss for many more years to come!
 COVID Update: 
If I sound optimistic, it is because the numbers (at least in the Midwest) have reduced to their lowest positivity rate since last June 2020. Beginning in July, we began to experience increasing cases each month, peaking in December at 26%. Since then, we’ve been in a decline each month down to our current rate of 4.63% positivity testing…the lowest rate since June 2020 (here is the month-by-month report). Experts say just because we are experiencing a good decline in infected individuals, to not let your guard down yet…as with and challenged defense, we must remember to finish – keep wearing masks!!
Locally this week, we have again reduced numbers from 51 active cases a week ago to 31 cases as of February 24 (this week’s report here)…and we are hearing of continued smooth rollout of the vaccine in Franklin County. I have received my first shot…I had a little redness and soreness at the site of the vaccination (but nothing very significant…it was completely gone in 3-days). The Chamber continues to receive calls, “how do I get signed up for my shot?”…it is very simple – call 785.229.3531 and have them put your name on the list. When it’s your turn you will be called and given instructions of where and when to go. The call list is now down to at least those born in 1956 now. 
Tractor Day at OHS:
Every year during National FFA week, local FFA students are given the opportunity to drive their tractor to school…here are this year’s pictures. Agriculture is part of all our daily lives – from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. Nationwide, more than 653,000 FFA members are celebrating the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education as part of National FFA Week. Local Vocational Ag teacher, Blake Lasley does a good job in instructing our local young agriculturists, all while making it fun…hence “drive your tractor to school day”. By parking tractors in front of Ottawa High School, it calls attention to Franklin County’s largest industry and reminds students and passers-by, of the importance it plays in each of our lives…that is if you eat food, or wear clothes, or even enjoy power when you plug in your computer. Food, fiber and energy…all from the American Farmer.
Swimming Pool:
It seems a little early to be talking about the local swimming pool in February…but those in charge of such things know you can’t wait until the last minute to be ready for the summer season. New ORC Director, Levi Meyer and ORC Recreation Manager Brandon Stortz updated City Commissioners this week on the anticipated upcoming season. The two ORC officials reported intentions are to open the pool this summer (after not opening a single day in 2020) and to be open the entire swim season…albeit with a few new rules and regulations. Governor Laura Kelly’s phase 3 of the Ad Astra COVID plan allows for aquatic centers to re-open now. The short of the long of it is there can only be 25% capacity swimming during one session which amounts to 75 swimmers at one time. But…the ORC has created 2 sessions each day – from 1:00-3:30, then closed 45 minutes to clean and disinfect…and then reopen from 4:15-6:45. Each session is a separate charge…you can’t re-enter for the 2nd session without paying again. Also…ORC will be using an enhanced disinfectant – and the baby areas, showers and changing rooms, and the water fountains will not be used this summer. You can read the entire policy and procedures for our local pool this summer here…suffice to say it is good to hear the pool will open and provide both activity and a place to cool off for local families this summer.
4-year Old Birthday Party:
Cherry and I went to the Florys last Tuesday evening to celebrate Jase Roger’s 4th birthday…and also to check in with baby Patton John who, unbelievably is 4-weeks old already. Here are the pictures. The big catastrophe of the evening was when Jase opened his parents’ gift, a tractor he can pedal and ride on, and it was broken in the shipping box. All Jase could think about was he couldn’t ride his tractor…sometimes it’s tough to be four. Still…sister Evie and brother Patton enjoyed all the festivities – as did grandpa and grandma!!
Looking forward to a beautiful weekend…might even roto-till the garden. Hope you all are as anxious for spring as I am…talk to you next week.
Onward ~ John 
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce