Decatur City Council to consider repealing COVID-19 safety laws
At its February 22 meeting, the Decatur City Council will discuss repealing its three COVID-19 safety laws. While our community’s COVID-19 metrics have improved substantially in recent weeks, a more proactive approach to repealing the laws would be to amend them such that they are reactivated if the city sees another COVID-19 surge.
More than any other central Illinois county with a mid-size city, Macon County and Decatur have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. On February 16, 2022, Macon County surpassed 30,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 318 COVID-19 related deaths. Macon County has the highest per capita death rate with a rate that is 49% greater than McLean Co., 65% greater than Sangamon County, and 125% greater than Champaign County. Furthermore, Macon County’s vaccination rate is the lowest of these counties meaning that our citizens will continue to be vulnerable to a virus for which the worst effects are now mostly preventable.
The long-term economic consequences to the city are also becoming more apparent. Throughout the pandemic, many workplaces including establishments licensed by the city were unsafe for workers and citizens. Simultaneously, the Decatur labor force has declined 4.2% since 2019 (from 31,743 to 30,403) and the number of employed individuals has declined 7.5% (29,948 to 27,708).
The COVID-19 safety laws were put in place prior to the Governor’s mask mandate and thus, these laws do not have to be repealed simultaneously to the Governor’s orders. In fact, given the city’s poor pandemic outcomes, it is important that we have COVID-19 safety laws that will continue to protect both our citizen’s health and the city’s economic health if conditions worsen. For example, the past three surges have all been preceded by a case rate >150 per 100k and a positivity rate of >6%.
Amending our city code to include such parameters as activators of our ordinance will be a proactive approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic and establish local guidance in determining when COVID-19 mitigations are needed. Repealing of our safety laws without a plan if COVID-19 surges again continues the ineffective and reactive approach which has been the city’s hallmark for much of the past two years.
The possible repeal of the city’s COVID-19 safety laws will be one of thirteen agenda items at the next city council meeting which also includes the issuance of $26.1 million in bonds for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, establishing parameters for the sale of the former fire station on W. Eldorado St., leasing of 40 additional license plate reader cameras in city neighborhoods, approval of a $5.8 million project to improve sewers at Ellen and Division, and authorization to demolish 6 additional properties.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Meetings take place in the council chambers located on the third 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/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
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/.