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COVID debate at county meeting

While some Illinois counties are taking certain stances on the governor’s COVID-19 response, it appears Livingston County is staying neutral for now.

“We need to digest what’s out there,” Livingston County Board Chair Kathy Arbogast said at the start of Thursday’s regular board meeting held on Zoom.

Arbogast urged patience and said the county’s top priority is the safety and welfare of citizens.

During public comment, citizen Rebekah Fehr shared her disappointment for a lack of a report from the county’s Administrative Committee which met the prior week. According to Fehr, many questions from county board members were answered by the State’s Attorney and director of nursing for the Health Department.

“Some of the questions were in regard to surrounding counties working on reopening plans guided by safe practices, questions about the legality of following the governor’s illegal executive order as well as what happens if a business is turned in to the county by someone that thinks there is defiance to the executive order,” Fehr said.

Fehr expressed further concerns over small businesses never reopening and consequences the stay-at-home order is having on citizens.

Following the meeting, Arbogast released a letter to Livingston County citizens on the county’s COVID-19 response, acknowledging the trying times we are experiencing and a “divide like no other.”

“I understand the pressures that businesses are facing as well as their desire to get back to work,” the letter states. “I understand the pressures that elected officials are facing, to do something to ease these restrictions. On the opposite side, I also understand the contingent that are concerned with opening too quickly and the impact that may have.”

Arbogast acknowledged a recommendation was submitted to the governor from Peoria County and the City of Peoria referred to as the Heart of Illinois Plan – a sub-regional approach to COVID-19 in which Livingston County is included, however Arbogast claims the county was not made aware of this plan until it had already been submitted to the governor.

“For every document that we review that challenges the governor’s order, we find another that supports it,” said the letter. “We see many counties across the state who are challenging the governor’s order but not one who has yet been successful.”

According to Arbogast, any action the County Board takes would only by symbolic and could add to confusion among business owners. She feels challenging the governor could also risk the county’s funding through FEMA and Public Health.

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