When it comes to public safety, following laws should not be a matter of convenience
In 2021 and the first three weeks of 2022, Decatur has experienced a significant increase in traffic accidents, crime, and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The deteriorating public health and safety our citizens are experiencing is not due to the absence of local laws or the dedication of our police officers, but rather widespread violation of laws which many may deem inconvenient.
Between 2020 and 2021, traffic accidents in Decatur increased 16% from 2,214 to 2,560. Among the leading causes of traffic accidents are speeding, distracted driving including texting, and driving while intoxicated. All of these activities are illegal, yet individuals routinely speed, text while driving, and drive while under the influence. Slowing down saves lives, but individuals cannot be inconvenienced to do so.
The limited consequences for breaking the law may also contribute to a city that is less safe. For example, if police officers can no longer take individuals who have been arrested to jail, but instead issue a notice to appear, individuals who commit crimes may not be deterred. Greater deterrence and consequences for committing crimes may reduce the violence the city is experiencing.
Decatur and Macon County residents are now experiencing the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. On January 19 alone, there were 515 newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases, 50 Macon County residents with COVID-19 were hospitalized, and tragically, there were 6 COVID-19 related deaths. In the first two weeks of January, many COVID-19 metrics are near their pandemic worst including % hospital beds used and % ICU beds used, and 4.9% of Macon County residents tested positive for COVID-19 (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home).
The Decatur City Council passed three COVID-19 safety laws in 2020 that are still in effect. Among other things, these local laws require individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public places regardless of vaccination status. Violations of the city’s three COVID-19 safety laws are widespread and commonplace. This has resulted in Decatur residents having fewer options to purchase groceries and other needed products safely, and employees working in unsafe conditions.
Rather than people suffering the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, the city can enforce its safety laws. I call upon city management to enforce the laws the city council passed to protect the public. Following local laws should not be a matter of convenience, in many cases following the law is a matter of public safety and economic security.
As stated in a letter to the community on December 30, organizations including HSHS Illinois, Memorial Health, SIU Medicine, and Springfield Clinic stated: “… Our wish as we start this new year is simple – please think twice. Take one more step to protect yourself and those around you. Don’t look back and think ‘if only.’ If only I had stayed home when I was ill. If only I had worn a mask in crowded indoor areas. If only I had been vaccinated or boosted. … Please get vaccinated. Please get boosted. Please get tested. And please mask when you should.”