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Local

'It's simply the right thing to do': DeKalb Mayor issues message on masks, rise in COVID-19 cases

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith issued a message on masks Wednesday, saying residents should do everything they can to "protect yourself and others by wearing a mask."
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith issued a message on masks Wednesday, saying residents should do everything they can to "protect yourself and others by wearing a mask."

DEKALB – DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith issued a message on masks Wednesday, saying residents should do everything they can to "protect yourself and others by wearing a mask."

His message echoed comments he made Monday during the DeKalb City Council meeting.

"We are not free of the dangers of COVID-19, a vicious virus that has put a stranglehold on our nation," Smith said Monday. "While we all despite a safe environment in which to live, to work, to raise our families, COVID-19 has presented challenges as to just how to achieve the safety we so very much want."

Smith said Wednesday his comments were not an official mandate, though the state of Illinois already has a mandate. Per the Illinois Department of Public Health, anyone over the age of 2 who can medically-tolerate face coverings must wear one in public places when social distancing of six feet is not attainable. Many businesses, restaurants and other places in the city and DeKalb County also have individual mask mandates.

"It is not a mandate," Smith said Wednesday. "But we try to align ourselves with the state of Illinois and I think we, like those at the Illinois Department of Public Health and the health department here and the governor and his staff, I think we're all concerned about what appears to be a spike in the positivity rate."

The state's North region –  an IDPH-designated region which includes DeKalb – as of Wednesday has reported six days of positivity increases.

The region (Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties) has seen six days of positivity increase and zero days of hospital admission increases. On Wednesday, it was reported that the region's positivity rate decreased slightly to 5.1%. Currently 46% of medical/surgical beds are available and 54% of ICU beds.

"I'm concerned about our ability as a local community and as a county to adhere to the social distancing and all that, so at this point, no there's no mandate and I hope w don't have to go there," Smith said. "But I'm fully prepared to do something if the situation arises where I have to make a decision, but I would only make that decision after having chatted with other parties including primarily the health department."

His comments Monday at the start of the council meeting including strongly urging residents to follow public face covering rules.

"I realize there are some who tout individual liberty as the basis of their decision not to join most of their fellow citizens in wearing appropriate face covering or masks during this pandemic," Smith said. "As this state and region face a spike in this virus, please, please, protect yourself and others by wearing a mask. It's simply the right thing to do."

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