When there were 66 total COVID-19 cases in the United States, Mayor Pekau was briefed by the CDC that this was going to be a pandemic—there was no way to stop it. From that point, our village leaders have had to make decisions to lead our village safely through this pandemic with very little information and constant uncertainty. The state and county have not made it easy, refusing to share data and information or work collaboratively.
Even with these challenges, we’ve led Orland Park through this pandemic with a balanced approach. Agreeing with the CDC that it is necessary to keep our economy moving to fund and protect our health care system, we have worked to protect lives and livelihoods. While the state has taken a more extreme approach, we’ve taken a data-driven, science-based approach that is pragmatic and realistic. We have found ways to allow people to continue to live their lives while taking smart and safe precautions.
We’ve helped our small businesses survive the pandemic and continue to pay their employees. When our frontline medical professionals and first responders were dangerously short of the PPE they needed to stay safe while keeping us safe, we secured and provided them over 4,000 facemasks. And with the pandemic significantly reducing village revenues and increasing our costs, creating a potential $7.5 million deficit, we reduced our budget to stay responsible during these difficult financial times, even lowering our own pay to lead by example. While other municipalities are going to taxpayers for more tax dollars to fill their pandemic-induced budget holes, we have responsibly cut costs, utilized reserves, and even lowered property taxes to give struggling families and small businesses relief.
Our approach is working. Throughout most of this pandemic, our case count, positivity rate, and deaths have been lower than the rest of the state. Sadly, 98% of the COVID deaths in our village are in long-term care facilities, which are solely regulated by the state. This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty by Springfield that has cost lives, yet our state politicians have met for a total of 4 days since the pandemic began (while still being paid their extravagant salaries and benefits).