As new COVID-19 cases continue to add up in La Salle County, Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck took the initiative to send an email to local businesses and restaurants.
“I just wanted to remind them to make sure they are wearing masks and disinfecting everything,” Hollenbeck said Tuesday. “When I was out to lunch, I was happy to see they were complying.”
Hollenbeck said he is going to bring up the idea of further guidelines at Wednesday’s Marseilles City Council meeting.
Hollenbeck is not alone as city and county officials address the uptick in cases.
La Salle County has had 229 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, with 152 of those in only the past week. The surge in cases and hospitalizations triggered a warning from the state and led to a visit from Gov. JB Pritzker.
Mendota alone registered an increase of 26 cases Monday (several from a confirmed outbreak of 47 cases at Heritage Health Mendota). The same day, La Salle County recorded its highest single-day total of 47 cases.
Mendota Mayor David Boelk warned that if the outbreak didn’t get any better he might have to issue an executive order shutting down non-essential businesses, fine people for not wearing masks or fine people holding gatherings of more than 10 people.
Other leaders across La Salle County said they would take their cues from the state. Utica Mayor David Stewart said the village would continue to follow the state guidelines and Peru Mayor Scott Harl said the governor hasn’t put the issue onto cities just yet, acknowledging that the current trend is “not good.”
Streator City Manager David Plyman said the city would keep following Pritzker’s and the La Salle and Livingston County Health department’s guidelines.
La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said his city will “stay the current course.”
La Salle County Board Chairman Jim Olson, D-Seneca, said he believed the state has put a good plan into place with the Restore Illinois plan. The governor has already said that the county’s health region, which includes several other counties, could see more restrictions if hospitalizations don’t decrease.
“Hopefully, the numbers are a wake-up call,” Olson said. “We have to start taking this seriously. We need to follow the state guidelines if we want to stay on this plan, or we could start seeing stuff shut down again.”
Ottawa Mayor Dan Aussem was in agreement with Olson in following the state’s lead.
“I think the governor already mandated [the wearing of masks], but as far as on the city end, we haven’t discussed anything,” said Aussem, whose city has had 78 confirmed cases, but no new cases in the past two days. “We typically take the lead from the [Illinois] Department of Public Health and work closely with the La Salle County Health Department.”
Similar to Marseilles, Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini said that because of a recent uptick, the city is being proactive in reminding businesess to follow guidelines. While Spring Valley is in neighboring Bureau County, it too has seen an increase in cases, with just shy of 100 new cases announced in the past two weeks.
“We are sending out a letter to all new businesses and asking them to comply with the Phase 4 restrictions,” said Marini, whose city has had 52 cases since the start of pandemic. “[We want them to] adhere to the social distancing and to wear masks and require patrons also to wear masks.”
While he said the letter doesn’t threaten any consequences for noncompliance, Marini said he wanted the letter to serve as a reminder because of several cases that have popped up recently.
Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram said there hasn’t been any talk among city leaders regarding tightening up restrictions.
“As a non-home-rule community, we are bound by the state’s position,” he said of Princeton, which has had 36 cases since mid-March. “They have passed no laws regarding COVID, so we can’t pass any ordinances. Nor can we enforce the governor’s order absent a law.”
Several counties have implemented mitigation measures to help slow the spread of the virus, according to the IDPH. Examples include the mayor of Springfield requiring bar employees to wear masks or be subject to fines, Perry County hospitals and nursing homes temporarily suspending visitors, and the state’s attorney in Jackson County allowing the local food ordinance to be used to enforce COVID-19 guidance at restaurants and bars.
• Times reporter Michael Urbanec contributed to this report.