County’s Health Board hears concerns, discusses ‘responsible reopening’
Posted May 22, 2020
By DANIEL WINNINGHAM
Enquirer~Democrat managing editor
The Macoupin County Board of Health met earlier this week and much of the discussion dealt with the possibility of reopening the county as the community seeks to return to a sense of normalcy amidst the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. No recommendation was made, but the board took public comment and discussed a draft which called for the “responsible reopening” of the county.
“It is imperative that all business owners pre-plan for any reopening,” according to the plan. “They must have a structured plan to deal with an unexpected surge in customers or clients in their respective businesses.”
The proposal still needs reviewed by the county’s legal council, according to Kent Tarro of the health department.
The consensus for not taking any action, according to the board members, was the need to wait for guidance as a legal challenge to the governor’s executive order was planned for May 22. A special meeting on the topic could be called next week.
Clinical director Christy Blank provided more detail on the plan after the meeting.
“This is based on CDC guidance published about face masks,” Blank said. “Anybody over the age of two, any adult that is tolerable that doesn’t have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face mask. If you’re in a public place, the assumption is that you’d wear a face mask or covering unless you can properly social distance.”
“When we come in here, every one of my staff members has to come in and take their temperature and take their symptoms down,” she said. “It’s tracking for our employees to make them more self aware,” she said.
Blank said businesses should plan to require face masks when social distancing cannot be practiced as well as monitoring temperatures.
“It needs to be in their contingency policy for opening up of what they require out of their employees,” Blank noted. “In our contingency policy (with the health department), we take their temperature at least twice a day and self report any symptoms.
“It’s a guidance only,” Blank said. “The church is going to be the best to know what their average occupancy is. We’re not going to know that. We’re saying, based off the risk category, the risk category of a church is the same as a restaurant or bar because there are a lot of people there that could be in close proximity. Madison County told them to start out at 50 percent capacity. That makes us a little nervous because if you have a church of 300 people that’s a lot of people in one place at one time when we’re limiting to a gathering of 10.”
The difficulty of the recommended guidance, Blank pointed out, is that it is difficult to enforce.
“No one is going to police this. This is a guidance for businesses,” Blank noted. “We’re not going to go around and say magically, ‘You’re on phase 2 now.’ This is a guidance for them. We’re going to go out to all the places that we have been and educate and help them with their contingency plans, if they don’t have it, help them be aware that if their disinfectant they have on hand is proper to clean. If it isn’t, then you have that whole (place) shut down and need (a) disinfecting thing to make sure that it’s gone. That stuff is not going away. People are still going to get it. We’re going to have to quarantine to keep it from spreading like crazy. We will be educating them, helping them make sure they work through those steps that way if we call them and say, ‘Hey, you’ve had an exposure,’ they can say, ‘I’m on it, I’m disinfecting everything. It’s an approved disinfectant,’ and they’re still in business. They’re not shutting down again.”
Jeff Brown was the first individual to speak publicly. He wanted to the county to consider enacting an ordinance similar to what Madison County approved earlier in the month.
“The gist of it is allowing the county to reopen in the board’s eyes where they will kind of step back and not enforce or do anything with the governor’s executive order that’s standing now,” Brown said. “As everybody probably knows, the executive order has gone beyond 30 days, there’s lots of legal battles going on right now, it has been ruled unconstitutional by one judge. They are having another court hearing because that representative pulled his restraining order that had been issued so they could make some changes and modifications.”
The court case Brown was referring to was filed in Clay County by Rep. Darren Bailey against Gov. Pritzker.
Brown said if business owners had questions about legality they should check with their own legal representation. If a question pertained to insurance, they should seek answers on that front as well. Brown suggested the board look at “giving the county a go” and make an attempt to reopen on its own.
“The county has been hurt,” Brown said. “(We have a) population of 45,000, that’s less than a 0.008 percent has been affected with the disease. The entire population has been affected by the shut down of the economy, loss of work, loss of revenue. We’ve got to get this county open. My hope is that the (county) board will pass this resolution, or at least discuss it if they deem necessary. My thoughts are that the people are going to become restless. If leadership gets behind the people, gives them some guidance, direction, (basically some) guidelines to do this safely, it’s going to work. If not, people are just going to do it and they’re going to open up. We’re got people calling your hotline to report children playing softball at Loveless Park. We’ve got people calling reporting an antique shop (open) that has three customers in there. Walmart is safe with 500 people in the box store, everybody touching everything, yet three people inside an antique store, public health comes in and shuts it down and says they’ve got to close. That’s not right. Every business in this place is essential. Every church is essential. Kids playing ball at Loveless Park, in the open. There were nine people, playing baseball. That’s under 10. They were more than six feet apart in the open air, getting exercise. It’s ridiculous that somebody called your hotline and you guys had to call the city PD to break it up.”
Additional public comment
Kyle Schroeder of Girard also addressed the board.
“I’m here tonight to be a voice for the small business owners in our community who still believe in the constitution,” Schroeder said. “Our friends and our families in our communities are hurting. Many small business closed down on March 20, thinking they were doing the right thing to help flatten the curve. Two weeks turned into 10, leaving many small business owners broke and bankrupt. There will be many businesses that will never reopen in our communities. That’s a shame. The cure, and we’ve heard this from the president and other people, but the cure cannot be worse than the disease, and it has become that. We are not Chicago. We are small towns that make up the community that we all live in and Macoupin County has had one death through this pandemic. My heart goes out to the family of this one person but that cannot stop us from moving towards reopening our county. Phase 3 of the governor’s plan allows for businesses to reopen on a very limited capacity. That does not mean that they are going to be profitable any time soon. As a small business owner, I can tell you that they have to make money. We need to open the county, and we need to do it now. Please vote to open our county and let the business owners worry about the legal ramifications of their own actions. Please don’t allow our governor to tell us what he thinks is best for our small communitities.
County Board chairman Mark Dragovich also spoke to the board.
“Our local public health department follows state statutes and state regulations unless we have something more stringent,” Dragovich said. “Even in the orders are relaxed by the governor in that order, or eliminated and overturned, the public health department here in Macoupin county will still have to deal with additional cases and deaths, and they’ll still have to implement quarantine and isolation orders even if the county was completely opened and everything. That wouldn’t end all of that, that’s still in the state statutes. There still would be a need for you guys to monitor the cases and deaths and provide the information to the (state’s)department of health.”
Next board meeting
Any recommendation by the Board of Health would have needed further approval by the entire Macoupin County Board, which is supposed to meet Tuesday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at the second floor meeting room of the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office building.
The county’s Board of Health will hold its next meeting Wednesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. at the Health Department.