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By Mark Gregory
Editorial Director 

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk lays out information, plans for the city to deal with COVID-19

 

Last updated 3/23/2020 at 3:38pm

Joliet mayor Bob O'Dekirk held a press conference Thursday to offer information to the community about the COVID-19 pandemic.

O'Dekirk announced that city hall will be closed to the public, but that the city is not closing.

"We will not have any interruption in city operations, but as is being confirmed, this illness is spread by person-to-person contact. We are going to protect the public and our staff by limiting that person-to-person contact. I want to stress that the city of Joliet remains in business. This will not interrupt our operations at all," he said. "There is some indication that things will get worse before they get better, so what we have done is divided our staff into essential and non-essential employees and have taken steps to make sure that the essential employees are not grouped together."

There will be a kiosk set up in the lobby of the downtown Joliet Police Department to take payments on any city bills.

City administration is aware that like individuals, local businesses are suffering from the shut down and quarantine of residents.

O'Dekirk said Joliet plans to offer sone assistance for those being hit hardest.

"We are doing what we can to help local businesses," he said. "Penalties and interest for any payments due will be waived. We will not charge penalties of late fees. We know businesses are struggling and we will do what we can to help."

Like the local businesses, the city itself is seeing a reduction in revenue with sales tax and hotel taxes cut significantly.

"Financially the city of Joliet, like every other municipality, is going to take a real hit. Our budget has basically been blown apart, but I am happy to say that the city of Joliet has $50 million in reserve fund and that will cover operations for several months," O'Dekirk said. "We don't know how long this will last, but like any business, the revenues that are coming into the city have been greatly reduced. Our finance team is working on that and are doing long-term projections. Both of our casinos are closed down right now and that is a significant source of revenue that we are not receiving. This isn't a Joliet problem – all cities are dealing with this right now."

Something else the country is dealing with as a whole is protecting its senior citizen population.

O'Dekirk said that was stressed during a conference call with the White House and Vice President Mike Pence.

"Vice President Mike Pence asked that we stress to the residents where we are at. According to the Vice President, the risk of serious illness for most of the people in this country is low. However, the risk of serious illness for elderly people, senior citizens or those with compromised immune systems – those risks are "very significant." This is nothing new, but this is something we must stress. Our seniors are at risk," O'Dekirk said. "Joliet people are stepping up and they want to help, but we are going to shift them to the United Way and the Will County Senior Center because they have a plan on place and we don't want to step on anyone's toes. This way, we will not duplicate work."

Joliet has created a resource page for senior citizens that is currently on the city website. If a resident is unable to access the website, they can call the city information desk at 815-724-4000.

Safety to first responders is also a big fear in the country and Joliet Fire Department chief Greg Blaskey said locally, all precautions are being taken.

"Regardless of what we are being called for, our crews are wearing additional protection including masks, face protection and gloves," he said. "The communication center is asking additional questions of those who call with flu-like symptoms and if they meet a certain criteria the crews en route are being notified that it is a potential COVID patient and they are taking additional concerns. The hospitals have also come down with direction that any patient that has tested positive for COVID-19, the (crew that transported the patient) must be informed within 12 hours that they were exposed to a positive COVID-19 patient. At this time, we have not transported any positive patients."

First responders and healthcare professionals will be able to be tested at the Walmart on Jefferson Street beginning at 10 a.m. March 20. The drive-up testing will be done on these individuals only from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

 

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