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Mayor of Genoa declares state of emergency as COVID-19 spread forces social distancing

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GENOA – The Genoa City Council approved Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary's ability to declare a state of emergency during an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

The city council approved the ordinance with an 8-0 vote at the emergency meeting that was conducted after the city council meeting, said Alyssa Seegus, administrative director for the City of Genoa. Vicary was absent, but Mayor Pro Tem James Stevenson voted in the mayor's place.

"[It's] an amendment to the municipal code, so it's put in place permanently," Seegus said.

Seegus said the city is just preparing for what might be coming in the next few weeks in regards to coronavirus, or COVID-19, and that they might not need to use it.

She said the state of emergency could be used during the coronavirus pandemic, or a potential natural disaster down the road.

"At this point, it would be a state of emergency if the city council couldn't meet," Seegus said.

The ordinance also allows the mayor to waive the city's remote attendance requirements. The rules, which are part of the Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/1, include the requirement that a quorum of the City Council be physically present for an open or closed meeting, and if a quorum is physically present, that a member can attend the meeting by audio or video conferencing.

Seegus said things are changing rapidly and the number of people who can meet in one place continues to change.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker declared all counties throughout the state of Illinois a disaster area.

Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-04, which canceled all public and private gatherings of 1,000 people or more in the state of Illinois, then later limited the number to fewer than 50 people to further implement social distancing.

"We're following advice from the municipal league and the governor's office, who's passing information from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Seegus said.

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