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Reopening in defiance of safety guidelines is reckless and endangers the health of our citizens

A bar in a nearby town has already opened and is serving drinks inside its doors, and at least one church in Decatur is planning to hold large, in-person services Sunday, May 17.  Given the world is in a global pandemic and the City of Decatur is currently in a state of emergency, I have significant health and safety concerns for those that are defying guidelines. 

According to the Pastor of the church holding large, in-person services: “Our Illinois government officials are using mysterious reasoning in their justification …”.  The decision to limit the number of individuals who gather in a confined location is based on strong scientific principles.  The spread of COVID-19 is density-dependent.  The greater the person to person contact, the greater the risk, and different types of gatherings have different levels of risk. 

Individuals release more of this virus before showing symptoms than in later stages of infection meaning that health precautions such as temperature checks are less effective than avoiding larger gatherings.  If a bartender serving drinks has the virus and is not yet symptomatic, it could result in significant spread.  In the absence of more comprehensive and systematic testing, effective treatments, and a vaccine, we must reduce the number of activities involving large groups of people. 

In their opposition to the state guidelines, one pastor wrote: “there is no logical argument that would prevent our churches from re-opening so long as we operate under great caution”.  By definition, great caution means restrictions on the size of gatherings and having large, in-person services increases the risks to parishioners and the public at large.  It should also be pointed out that different types of activities have different levels of risk.  The risk of contracting a virus is higher when sitting near an individual compared to passing by them as one might do at a grocery store.  Bars that reopen and do not practice social distancing guidelines, do not require masks, have temperature checks, etc. are reckless. 

One of the reasons for the current restrictions is to flatten the curve in the number of COVID-19 cases to ensure area hospitals have the capacity to handle the number of patients requiring treatment.  If we exit these restrictions too early, as many states likely have, and too many people become infected, the individuals who protect public health and safety may be negatively impacted.  

In my view, not following safety guidelines can be considered reckless and the consequences of not following guidelines endanger the health of others.  Unequivocally, there are laws that prohibit reckless behaviors that endanger public safety.

Everyone I know has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The death toll has been staggering, daily lives have been disrupted, and the economic consequences are both unprecedented and likely to be long-lasting.  However, the negative consequences to our health and economy of a second wave of the virus are far worse than the consequences of following the recommended path to reopening our state and city in a more deliberate manner. 

The health and safety of our citizens is the number one priority of city government.  While entities may not face any legal consequences, it does not mean that actions of defiance are not reckless and do not endanger other people’s lives.  People must feel safe before we will recover, and the actions of a few are making this more difficult. 

Horn for Decatur
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