Decatur City Council approves alcohol consumption at Christmas Walk as COVID-19 positivity rate surges
Macon County is on the state’s Warning List due to its high rate of COVID-19 infections. For the week of October 11-October 17, Macon County had a COVID-19 test positivity of 11.7%.
On October 19, the Decatur City Council approved by 5-1 an ordinance allowing for consumption of alcoholic beverages on downtown city streets as part of the 2020 Downtown Decatur Christmas Walk on December 2. As presented to the council, the plan for the event violates city code and is in opposition to national and local health guidelines associated with COVID-19. While I have supported this event in the past, I voted no as this year’s event unnecessarily puts our citizens at risk.
A LARGE GATHERING IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH COVID-19 SAFETY GUIDELINES
As indicated by national and local health officials, among the best ways that we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 infection include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding large gatherings. In all four areas, the proposed event is inadequate in protecting attendees.
According to the Downtown Decatur Christmas Walk Plan updated October 15, the health guidelines for the event include “Masks will be recommended for all customers, staff, and volunteers.” Recommending, rather than requiring, face coverings would be a violation of city code which states that “Licensees shall require patrons and employees of licensees wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times …” Furthermore, mask wearing is one of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
With alcohol sales approved, the event may be encouraging a large crowd. However, according to Restore Illinois Phase 4 Guidelines for social events, gatherings are limited to 50 people or fewer. The plan does not indicate what the maximum occupancy will be for the event and how the entities responsible for the event will make sure maximum occupancy is not exceeded. While health guidelines encourage frequent handwashing, the plan does not indicate that handwashing stations will be available. Finally, the plan lacks information on how the safety guidelines will be enforced during the event.
While I have been a supporter and participant in past walks, public safety should be the number one priority of the city and its elected officials. Given the high COVID-19 positivity rate in our county, having a large gathering may facilitate the spread of COVID-19 and unnecessarily puts the health of our citizens at risk.