Decatur City Council should not repeal COVID-19 safety requirements
Macon County has the highest per capita death rate and highest per capita number of cases from COVID-19 of any other county in central Illinois with a mid-sized city (as determined on 12/31/20). Tragically, our death rate from COVID-19 is 71% greater than the second highest county, Sangamon. At its meeting on Monday, January 11, the city council agenda includes repealing requirements that entities with licenses and/or that sell alcoholic liquor follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. I am strongly opposed to eliminating the city’s COVID-19 safety ordinances and their subsequent enforcement.
The best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19 include maintaining social distancing (>6 ft.), wearing a face covering, and washing hands frequently. The city council is considering deleting requirements of licensees (Chapters 50 and 52 of City Code) that “… require all patrons of unrelated parties maintain a social distance of six (6) feet” and would delete requirements to “wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times when on premises”. Furthermore, licensees and permittees would no longer “be required to follow all guidelines set fourth by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for Restaurant and Bar Establishment Safety Guidelines …”. Chapter 52 applies to all entities that sell alcoholic liquor from restaurants/bars to gas stations to grocery stores, and it allows the city to make sure entities with an enhanced risk of COVID-19 spread are following the required measures.
By repealing ordinances that require entities to follow safety guidelines, the city council would send a poor signal regarding the importance of other COVID-19 safety ordinances including requiring mandatory face coverings to preserve and protect residents (Chapter 72 of the city code).
WHEN THE CITY ENFORCED COVID-19 SAFETY REQUIREMENTS COVID-19 HEALTH METRICS IMPROVED
The city council passed the above changes to Chapters 50 and 52 requiring license holders to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines on August 3. Weeks went by without meaningful enforcement by the city. Deaths, hospitalizations, and cases rose significantly. In our worst day, 10 people died from COVID-19 and the city has experienced approximately the same number of deaths from COVID-19 in less than a year than the total number of homicides in the past decade. Soon after the ordinance was enforced, the metrics improved substantially.
Protecting the health and safety of our residents is the number one priority of our city. Eliminating requirements to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines risks the health and safety of our citizens in a city whose population was already more susceptible to the virus as a result of its demographics and health condition.
THE DECATUR CITY COUNCIL SHOULD INSTILL CONFIDENCE THAT OUR CITY IS AND WILL REMAIN SAFE
Protecting the health of our citizens and the city’s economic recovery will require citizens having assurance that the entities they frequent are safe, and I am very thankful to the many individuals and entities that are following safety guidelines and local law. When the city fails to enforce local law or repeals laws that protect citizens, it is both unfair to the entities that are following the law and decreases public trust. The city council should instill confidence that our city is and will remain safe through continued enforcement of local laws protecting the health of Decatur residents. Without continued enforcement unsafe practices could resume, the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen, and the much-needed health and economic recovery will be delayed.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss this or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.