QUINCY -- City officials warn that local law enforcement may be forced to issue citations if residents continue to flout the state's "stay-at-home" order, which remains in effect until April 30.
In a unanimous vote on Monday evening, the Quincy City Council approved an ordinance that authorizes Quincy Police Department officers to cite any person who is violation of the statewide order, which was put into place on March 21, in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois.
To date, more than 367,000 Americans, including 12,262 Illinois residents, have contracted the virus. More than 10,000 Americans, including 307 Illinois residents have died from the virus.
The majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 do recover. Officials report 50% of those diagnosed recover within seven days of testing positive in Illinois. Even more recover within two weeks, although public officials have not released that statewide figure.
Quincy Police Department Chief Rob Copley said those found to have violated the municipal ordinance could be ordered to pay up to $500 in fines.
Both Copley and Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore said the department would only use the ordinance after repeated attempts at encouraging compliance had failed.
"This ordinance is really for those people, who as this drags on, may start to thumb their nose at the stay-at-home order," Moore said. "Quincy Police Department is not going to be looking specifically for opportunities to issue these citations. They are going to continue educate the public about the order, but this ordinance is there for them to use as a last resort."
As approved on Monday, the ordinance will expire when the state's stay-at-home order is lifted by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
"It is our hope that we do not need to use this ordinanc, but feel strongly that we need it in place," Copley said in a memo to the Quincy City Council.
Moore said the ordinance will not work retroactively, in response to questions as to whether or not the ordinance would be applied to the organizers of a 100-person gathering in Lima, which occurred on March 21, and the 25-person party that occurred in Quincy on March 27. An individual, identified as male in his 20s, has tested positive for COVID-19 and was "linked to both parties," according to Adams County Health Department Director Jerrod Welch.
Instead city leaders say the ordinance is intended to help prevent future gatherings of people or non-essential businesses that may attempt to re-open.
"We anticipate as this goes on that people will start having parties and gatherings together," Copley said.
Overall, Moore said he was still pleased by how the city's residents have responded to the stay-at-home order.
"We can all certainly think of a few examples of people not abiding by the stay-at-home order, but I think 98% or 99% of the people of this community are abiding by it. If you take a test and get 98% or 99%, I think you would be pretty pleased with the result," Moore said. "I know people may get tired of hearing it, but everyone needs to assume that they either have the virus and don't have symptoms or that the person next to them is carrying the virus."
Following the City Council meeting, Moore also addressed concerns about the need for Quincy City Hall to remain open during the pandemic and for members of the city council to continue to meet in-person.
"Essentially, with the city council we let the aldermen know that if they want to attend in person then we will make the appropriate accommodations to ensure appropriate distancing between everyone. We've also told department heads that they no longer need to attend city council meetings unless they have something specific to address," said Moore, who added he has no plans to close Quincy City Hall, which is currently only open to city employees.
Moore also said city employees are currently using teleconference technology in order to avoid in-person meetings. He also said he couldn't answer specific questions about whether or not city employees or elected leaders were quarantined due to health privacy laws.
"We are continuing to take precautions and follow all the recommendations made by the Adams County Health Department," Moore said.