Dixon council backs off from emergency declaration, urges compliance

DIXON – The Dixon City Council will not be pursuing an emergency declaration following concerns

DIXON – The Dixon City Council will not be pursuing an emergency declaration following concerns and confusion by residents, but officials are optimistic that the bulk of the community will comply with health guidelines to avoid an exponential surge in cases and deaths.

The council had a special meeting Thursday to vote on an ordinance that would grant Mayor Li Arellano Jr. emergency declaration powers with the intent to later issue a local state of emergency for Thanksgiving week, deemed an especially dangerous time when coronavirus infections could balloon because of gatherings.

It’s culturally a time of mass travel, gathering, and shopping, and “Blackout Wednesday” is also the biggest drinking holiday in Dixon, Arellano said.

The goal was to make a declaration as an awareness tool to alert people to the seriousness of the potential spread, and the strain it could put on the area health system.

KSB Hospital CEO Dave Schreiner said the seven-bed Intensive Care Unit was full with COVID-19 patients with some requiring ventilators, and the third-floor coronavirus wing was full. The number fluctuates, but they have the ability to double those beds to 100 if need be.

The county has traced outbreaks to Halloween parties, birthday parties, numerous weddings and other gatherings, and Thanksgiving is a concern, Lee County Health Administrator Cathy Ferguson said.

Ferguson echoed the widespread advice from health and government officials to limit gatherings to their household, and that one infection could have dire effects on others at risk.

“It really could have tragic consequences,” she said.

More than 20 people submitted online comments to Arellano that were against the emergency declaration, and most were concerned about the language in the ordinance.

The ordinance mirrors state statute for a state of emergency, varying widely from an epidemic to riots and other threats and national disasters. Included is the authority to temporarily establish a curfew, close liquor sales and gun sales, which is where resident concerns came.

Arellano had no intention of enforcing that authority, and none of those measures would have applied to this situation, he said.

“In terms of community attention, I think we have that for better or worse,” he said.

Resident Dee Martinez spoke in-person during the meeting that the declaration was an alarming government overreach and that the coronavirus death rate was low compared to other things like cancer, heart disease and traffic fatalities.

“250,000 deaths doesn’t warrant the response we’ve seen,” she said.

Councilman Dennis Considine said the intent was to alert people of the danger, the need is from people taking the situation so flippantly, and that he has a brother with COVID-19 who probably isn’t going to make it.

“This has nothing to do with the numbers of heart attacks and other issues in the community and the world,” he said. “It’s how it’s attacking us now.

“We are a great community, and the purpose was never to put controls on people. It was only to put people in a position to bring them into compliance so they aren’t necessarily unconsciously spreading this horrid disease.”

People need to be aware of the detriment the disease causes, he added.

“It’s serious and it’s real,” he said. “That’s why our hospital is full, it’s why globally places are full, and we should do everything we can to be respectful of each other.”

Councilwoman Mary Oros said people need to understand the human side of the virus, not the political. Her son is recovering from coronavirus, and she spoke about the hardship in alerting the possible exposure to a family that lost their father months earlier to coronavirus. They are all doing well, but it’s more important than ever to be a good neighbor, she said.

Council members agreed that they shouldn’t approve an ordinance at this time, and no vote was called.

Resident Chris Bishop, a former councilman, said his concerns were alleviated after the ordinance was explained, and it should be up to families to talk about the risks together to make a decision on gatherings.

The council also recently contacted many city businesses to explain the danger of next week, and members said they are confident and relieved by the response of all businesses.

“We’re trying to take care of the community and inform the community this surge has been affecting our community in a way that the spring surge never did,” Arellano said.

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