A Joint Service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Tazewell Health Department Rebukes EP Mayor, Asks Public To Follow COVID Mitigations

Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
Tazewell County Health Department Administrator Amy Fox speaks at a news conference announcing the region's first COVID-19 case at the UnityPoint Atrium in downtown Peoria, March 14, 2020.

Tazewell County Health Department Administrator Amy Fox is asking the public to take COVID-19 mitigations and public health guidance seriously as coronavirus rates surge throughout the region.

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl said the city won't enforce the new restrictions on indoor bar and restaurant service that Gov. JB Pritzker ordered to start Wednesday as COVID positivity rates in Region 2 spiked past 8% for the third consecutive day on Sunday.

"The businesses of East Peoria have done their part throughout these challenging times and not a single one of them has been found by the health department to pose a risk to public health," Kahl said in a widely-circulated social media post on Sunday.

But Fox directly rebuked the mayor in a memo issued Monday.

"While we appreciate an elected official can do as he/she sees fit for their community, no official, including Mayor Kahl, has had a recent conversation with TCHD, or been given permission to speak for the health department on this developing issue," Fox wrote.

"There are proven public health reasons for the mitigation strategies in our community," Fox continued. "Tazewell County cases have been increasing steadily."

As of Oct. 30, Region 2 reported a 9.7% 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate. In Tazewell County, the positivity rate is 8.9%, and has risen every day for the past nine days.

"Denying that COVID-19 is real, disregarding the mitigations and ignoring strong public health guidance for safety only makes COVID worsen in our community and does nothing to get us back to normal or slow infection in our community," Fox said.

Fox said the health department "applauds and supports those schools, businesses, and individuals who are taking necessary steps and making the tough decisions to lead Tazewell County forward."

Other Tazewell County communities appear ready to adopt the renewed mitigations.

"It is unfortunate that these mitigation requirements primarily impact those already suffering small businesses in Washington,"  Mayor Gary Manier said on Monday. "We will get through this by following recommended guidelines and supporting our local businesses."

Manier encouraged residents to support those businesses by purchasing gift cards or certificates, dining at restaurants outdoors, or ordering takeout.

The Tazewell County Health Department said its contact tracing shows most cases come from a direct exposure to a positive individual, such as a family member, friend, or coworker--or through general community spread.

Work and social environments also are leading to cases when precautions like face coverings, frequent handwashing, and social distancing aren't used, the health department reports.

There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.