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Health department head: McLean County can’t safely enact HOI reopening plan

McLean County Health Dept. New Administrator
Jessica McKnight (McLean County Health Department)

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - The head of the McLean County Health Department believes the county government is not prepared to safely implement a quicker reopening of area businesses than prescribed by Gov. JB Pritzker's phased-in approach.

Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight sent a memo to McLean County board members before an anticipated board vote Thursday evening.

The board is expected to decide whether the county should participate in the so-called Heart of Illinois reopening plan for a speedier economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to McKnight, the county doesn't have the necessary systems in place, nor the resources to safely move forward with the HOI plan, which includes a sub-region of 11 counties, including Peoria County.

McKnight said none of the other counties have adopted the HOI plan, so McLean County would be moving forward on its own.  

"Without the necessary systems and resources in place, we cannot assure the safe reopening as proposed by that plan, and I have some concerns about how moving forward as a single county could impact our relationship with the State," McKnight said.

"No matter the approach McLean County takes, as we reopen, we are likely to see increases in positive cases of COVID-19 as well as clusters and outbreaks that will require the time and expertise of McLean County Health Department (MCHD) staff," McKnight also said.

"The MCHD has been able to manage our response to COVID-19 up to this point," she said.

"Going out on our own, and against the Governor, leaves McLean County vulnerable to repercussions, including potential loss of state funding," said McKnight.

The HOI sub-region is composed of McLean, Peoria, Woodford, Tazewell, Putnam, Marshall, Livingston, LaSalle, Bureau, Stark, and Fulton Counties.

Starting Friday, communities like Bloomington are allowing outdoor dining as the state moved to Phase 3 of the governor's plan. The Bloomington City Council Tuesday night authorized City Manager Tim Gleason to temporarily block off city right-of-ways to allow for businesses to operate outside.   

The McLean County Board's special meeting on the HOI plan is Thursday at 5:30 p.m.


Howard Packowitz

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