Repealing or weakening COVID-19 safety laws returns to Decatur City Council agenda
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. When the pandemic began, Macon County was not destined to have the highest per capita death and case rates. Other cities and counties have and continue to implement safety guidelines and follow state mitigation measures that have protected their citizens.
At its meeting on January 19 at 5:30 PM, the Decatur City Council will resume a tabled discussion on whether to repeal or weaken two of the city’s COVID-19 safety laws. I am strongly opposed to eliminating or weakening the city’s COVID-19 safety ordinances and their subsequent enforcement. Seven other issues are also on the agenda including approving an agreement with the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District to provide Lake Decatur watershed conservation services and the December 2020 Treasurer’s Report.
WHEN THE CITY ENFORCED COVID-19 SAFETY REQUIREMENTS COVID-19 HEALTH METRICS IMPROVED
Three local laws have been passed that require individuals and businesses to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. The first two laws the city council passed on August 3 were changes to Chapters 50 and 52 of city code requiring license holders (including those that sell alcohol) to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. 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 city codes were enforced, COVID-19 metrics improved substantially.
THE DECATUR CITY COUNCIL SHOULD INSTILL CONFIDENCE THAT OUR CITY IS AND WILL REMAIN SAFE
Protecting the health and safety of our residents is the number one priority of our city and COVID-19 is an eminent hazard to human health. Eliminating or weakening requirements risks the health and safety of our citizens in a city whose population was already more susceptible to the virus due to its demographics and health condition.
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.