DECATUR — The Macon County Health Department Board of Health got an update Tuesday about the enforcement efforts as they relate to businesses complying with state and local coronavirus mandates, with an eye toward stepping those efforts up.
“Throughout this time we’ve worked very closely with the state’s attorney office, with the IDPH, with local law enforcement, we’ve worked with Illinois State Police,” said Brandi Binkley, public health administrator, during Tuesday's virtual meeting. “There’s only so much we’ve been able to do. And we’ve done that to ensure we’re doing our due diligence.”
The health department currently has a three-step process after receiving complaints. The first step is an educational phone call. After the second complaint, the health department staff will make a visit to the business. “And we provide education with that visit as well,” Binkley said.
On the third complaint, if the department has jurisdiction over the Macon County business, it may issue a cease-and-desist order. So far, they have not needed to take the third step.
The story contains additional data from the Macon County Health Department about COVID cases.
How the health department would enforce masks in businesses was discussed.
“They may be doing everything within their power to enforce people wearing masks, but once the people come in and take them off, that may not be an appropriate situation to pull a food permit or issue a cease-and-desist order,” Binkley said. “But if it’s a place that is outright being non-compliant on purpose, they are putting people’s lives at risk by not following any of these rules, that might be a somewhat different situation.”
The board discussed the option of updating an ordinance placing more businesses under its jurisdiction. “We have a responsibility to the community,” Binkley said.
The health department is not the only entity able to enforce COVID precautions. They partner with law enforcement in following up on complaints out of their jurisdiction.
“I get both sides of it,” board member Brett Jerger said, referring to people who think the restrictions are too relaxed or to strict.
The process was confusing to the board as well. “Originally it was six-feet or a mask. Now it’s just about the mask,” Jerger said.
Binkley said the the health department has drafted a mask ordinance similar to the one adopted by the city of Decatur.
“It has been sent to the state’s attorney’s office to review in case that’s the direction the board would like to go,” Binkley said.
A COVID-19 enforcement support position also has been posted on the health department’s website.
“We are looking to hire someone that can assist with taking those complaints, following up on them, making those visits,” Binkley said.
In other business, the board got an update on the status of Decatur’s only Kentucky Fried Chicken, located at 1310 E. Pershing Road.
The health department closed the local franchise to the public on Sept. 10 for various health violations, including an overflowing dumpster with infestation of flies, heavy housefly activity and excessive garbage in the storage area, a non-functional hand sink and mop sink. According to the health department inspection report, the violations create a risk for food-borne illnesses.
The restaurant also was closed by the health department on June 24 after a health inspection found imminent health hazards. Since this is the second closure for KFC in 12 months, the business licence had been revoked.
During the meeting, the board was shown images from previous inspections, including boxes filled with food waste and garbage and sinks filled with cloudy, standing water.
Officials said the restaurant could be allowed to reopen if the the health violations are addressed. However, if health issues persist, the board may be asked to vote on permanently close the restaurant.
“It may come to where we need a hearing and get your intake,” said Kathy Wade, director of Environmental Health and Emergency Preparedness.