Update from Orland Park Mayor Pekau
|The old saying “May you live in interesting times” certainly rings true today.|
And as someone once said, “We are all in the same storm, but we are in very different boats.” I want to remind everyone of that and to try to think of the impacts to people in different circumstances during this time.
I released another Public Service Video this week that shares a lot of updated information. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFMSh88PC3w&t
As you all know by now, the primary reason for the “stay at home” order was to “flatten the curve”. The goal of flattening the curve was to ensure that the health care system was not over run and that we didn’t have any otherwise preventable deaths. It was not to eliminate deaths. We have accomplished this and the health care system has been protected.
However, there is no doubt we have significantly damaged the economy in the process and now must consider how to safely activate the economy that currently has unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. A depressed economy and this level of unemployment puts enormous strains in many areas, including the health care system, and could actually cost more lives than the pandemic when you consider suicides, depression, abuse, lack of health insurance, lack of preventive care, etc. A poor economy also results in reducing care for our most vulnerable – our seniors, those in nursing homes and the mental health care system.
Not only is it not an either/or choice, we MUST get the economy back to normal in order to save lives. The American people are smart, compassionate and caring. We can figure out how to have a vibrant economy while voluntarily social distancing.
In order to carefully plan and hopefully coordinate our opening, letters were sent to the governor on April 10th, 17th, 24th, May 5th and May 8th. The only response back to any of them was on May 6th via email. I followed up on that email and have received no response. We have repeatedly asked the governor to engage with us to no avail. Many other mayors and elected officials report similar results.
This week in response to what is happening in the state, the governor has issued a series of threats. These included threats against mayors, municipalities, businesses, residents (for crossing state lines to shop), and most recently law enforcement officials. Not only is this not helpful, but it undermines trust and confidence in the state and governor.
The governor routinely lashes out at those who question him and states that “those people” don’t care about lives, data or science. Charges like this are meant to distract people from the questions that are being asked. Not only do these charges have no merit, they indicate that he doesn’t have the facts to support his own position.
Threatening municipalities is nothing new. For over 40 years, the state has shared 10% of income tax. Since 2011 it has decreased and is now down to 5.65% (a loss of $6.1M for OP last year). This year, the governor he has put 10% more of this fund into “reserves” that he said WILL NOT be shared if the progressive tax is not passed. In other words, we have become accustomed to Governor Pritzker’s threats. Now he is threatening to not share the federal funds that were given to the state for the express purpose of distributing aid to municipalities due to this crisis. News flash, even though the money is not the state’s money, the Village has already assumed that the state would find a way to “steal” it and we would see no aid.
Many have also asked for the governor to share the information that he is using. To date this information has not been shared. For example, his plan calls for 28 days from phase to phase. The CDC, and every state, recommends 14 days. Chicago, the Illinois Municipal League and every mayor has asked for this to be reduced to 14 days. He refuses and says he is listening to experts. What experts? Nobody has been able to find an expert that calls for 28 days. He should be transparent and tell us. I would ask again, if there are additional facts and data that we should know about, please share them.
The governor listed several metrics in his Restore Illinois plan. As of Thursday, every region in the state has met every one of these metrics to begin to return to normal and enter the next phase. I am not sure why the governor refuses to allow us to move forward when his metrics are met?
The moving of the goal posts is getting tiresome. First it was flattening the curve to protect the health care system – we did. Then we had to meet these metrics, we did. Where will the goal posts be moved next?
The legislature finally announced that they are going back to work next week. I am thankful they listened to our request. The people of Illinois and specifically the people of Orland Park need representation, which we haven’t had because the General Assembly has been AWOL since the beginning of this crisis. They need to work on behalf of the people of Orland Park and Illinois and ensure that we being returning to normal.
The state has failed us on many levels. First and foremost, the state has failed to protect its most vulnerable citizens. According to Illinois Department of Public Health 48% of statewide and 100% of Orland Park COVID deaths are in long term care facilities. The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for those facilities.
Additionally, we know that 92% of US deaths occur in people over 55 years of age. This disease becomes significantly more dangerous as patients age. In Illinois, for patients over 80, sadly 51% of patients are hospitalized and 44% pass away. It is critically important to protect the vulnerable populations (people over 60 and people with underlying health conditions). Additionally, those in long term care facilities need to be protected. This is why the CDC specifically recommends that until our economy is back to normal, vulnerable populations should voluntarily “stay at home” and long-term care facilities should not have visitors.
The state IDPH has already failed to protect these populations through this pandemic, and yet it doubles down and ignores the CDCs recommendations in the Restore Illinois plan. This baffles me and is unacceptable. The legislature needs to fix this. If they do not, I CANNOT OVEREMPHASIZE THE NEED FOR THE VULNERABLE POPULATIONS TO TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ENSURING THEIR OWN SAFETY BY STAYING AT HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE WHENEVER WE START RETURNING TO NORMAL.
IDPH was also responsible for maintaining emergency medical supplies and personal protective equipment. They failed to do so. The Village of Orland Park was not only on its own for PPE but we had to implement the “masks for medical program” so that many of our medical offices could open.
Moreover, the state has failed to provide a safety net for many of the unemployed, 1099 workers and the self-employed in spite of receiving funding from the federal government to do so. Their system has crashed and many have yet to receive any benefits and have been on their own.
How many more suicide attempts, drug overdoses, cases of domestic violence, missed diagnoses due to lack of health care screenings or deaths in nursing homes to we need to endure before the state does its job?
On top of all of this, the state and the county have released many dangerous criminals and are putting most criminals now arrested on ankle monitoring. After almost 2 months of quiet, we are seeing an increase in crime in the region. Not specifically in Orland yet, but in the area. These criminals are violent, so please lock your doors and pay attention at gas stations. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts, stay in your car and drive on. Yet another failure given to us by the state and county.
The American people are resilient and they generally do the right thing and are conscientious of others. An example of this occurred before the “Stay at home” orders. Restaurants were already voluntarily seating half as many people, movie theaters were voluntarily socially distancing their seats, people were taking extra time to sanitize their gym equipment voluntarily, etc.
I believe in personal freedoms and trust you all to behave responsibly provided we inform you. It is our job to keep you informed. I have made every effort to do so over the last 2 months and will continue to do so.
We have done what we have been asked to do and met the goals we were asked to meet. Now it is time for the legislature and the governor to work together to allow us to start returning to normal. Let’s continue to show the rest of Illinois how Orland Park can rally together, do the right thing and return to normal. In the meantime, I will continue to fight to keep our residents safe and to start returning to normal which is critical to keep residents safe.
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