Wearing of face covering now required in Decatur
On November 17, the Decatur City Council voted 5-2 to require the wearing of face coverings to better protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was strongly in favor of this ordinance. Protecting the health and safety of our residents is our number one priority and the consensus of both the scientific and healthcare community is that wearing a face covering saves lives.
Approximately one month ago, on October 16, Macon County had 23 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and tragically, 48 deaths. On November 16, 48 people were hospitalized (208% increase), and tragically, 89 deaths (41 additional deaths in one month). By comparison, the City of Decatur had 8 homicides between January-October 2020.
The alarming spread of COVID-19 in our city made it clear that further action by the Decatur City Council was necessary. Furthermore, it was clear that Decatur residents want safety guidelines enforced and for many residents an ordinance requiring face coverings was long overdue.
Individuals who do not wear masks when other individuals are present at places open to the public unnecessarily jeopardizes people’s health and threaten the viability of businesses in the city. As per the new city ordinance “A business, store, office, venue, property owner, manager or operator shall monitor those persons entering and remaining in or on their property, business or office and shall refuse admission, service and allowance to remain in or on their property to any individual who fails to wear a face covering …” Violations of the ordinance can result in fines.
In response to the new ordinance, some local residents have claimed that they will dine elsewhere if no indoor dining is available in Decatur. It is unclear how dining out elsewhere will result in slowing the spread of the virus. If this ordinance results in fewer people dining out, and more individuals choosing carryout or delivery, the citizens of Decatur will be safer and choosing carryout or delivery from local restaurants supports local businesses and saves jobs.
In response to the new ordinance, some local residents have claimed it is unconstitutional. However, Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS 5/11-20-5 provides that municipalities may make regulations which may be necessary for the promotion of health or the suppression of diseases. This ordinance is not in violation with the U.S. Constitution.
Protecting the health of our citizens and the city’s economic recovery will require citizens having assurance that the places they go are safe. I am very grateful to the many individuals and entities that are following safety guidelines and local law.