Opinion: Orland Park Village lacks experience to manage COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau claims he is readying to distribute the COVID-19 vaccinations but with no real experience in health care services, the Village is not the best qualified source to manage this important need. That responsibility should go to Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady whose health services department not only provides vaccinations but also offers an array of health care services to residents, especially to Senior Citizens.
By Ray Hanania
Mayor Keith Pekau’s political activists are out there collecting signatures falsely telling the public that the Village of Orland Park will control the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccinations that are expected to begin making its way to Cook County later this month.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whom Pekau has attacked repeatedly over the years, has said that he expects 109,000 vaccines will be available soon for Cook County, although initially the priority will be to vaccinate front-line healthcare workers and long-term care workers.
As Pfizer steps up production, the availability of vaccinations should see a dramatic increase as the FDA officially approves emergency authorization use to expedite its production and distribution. That number will increase in the weeks that follow. And that’s good news for residents who fear exposure to the deadly virus.
Although Orland Park has been lucky to dodge a major fatality bullet, thousands of residents have been infected with the virus, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. The data shows that the infection rate has increased dramatically over the past few months.
The infection tally spiked on December 1 to a record 3,463 Orland Park residents, according to the IDPH. That is an increase of 1,369 infections since Nov. 1, when the recorded infections were only 2,094. The infection rate, despite Mayor Pekau’s “I don’t care attitude,” has steadily increased over the past months since I began doing what the village has failed to do, document the infection numbers.
At issue will be who is best capable to handle the vaccine distribution, a Village run by a mayor who questions the wearing of face masks or the Township which has a proven record of providing healthcare services to residents.
This week, Mayor Pekau and his three allies controlling the Village Board blocked the passage of an ordinance that would enforce a CDC recommendation to require the public to wear face masks while in public locations with other people. Most businesses already require the wearing of face masks to enter their stores but more than a significant number of skeptics who see face masks as a violation of their Constitutional Rights refuse.
Rather than be a role model of responsibility, Pekau and his board allies — none of whom wore face masks at the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting this past week — blocked a proposal to make it mandatory that was introduced by Trustee Dan Calandriello and backed by Trustees Jim Dodge and Kathy Fenton, all three of whom were wearing face masks during the public meeting.
Worse is that Pekau and his allies were not wearing face masks although sitting feet away from political rivals who were wearing masks, a violation of the “social distancing” that he and his allies claimed was being enforced in the village. Everywhere but not at Village Hall, apparently.
During the meeting, Pekau said he expected the Village to be given the authority to distribute vaccines but that would be a serious health mistake.
After brushing off the proposal to enforce the CDC recommendation to wear face masks saying, “I’m not sure what the point is here,” Pekau announced during the COW at the end of the debate that the village was readying itself for the vaccines, though he could’t stop himself from slamming the state again in his comments.
“We know there is a vaccine coming out. And currently, staff is working through the distribution plan we have in place. We exercised that plan in March. And we will continue to train appropriately. The state’s plan right now is unclear, so staff needs to spend their time focusing on that,” Pekau asserted as if expecting the state to give the authority to distribute vaccinations to him.
I think that option is unlikely. In fact, the responsible action would be for the state to put the vaccine distribution in the capable hands of the Township, which has experience and doesn’t need to have its staff doing “research” on how to do it.
The Village of Orland Park doesn’t have a real Health Department. It conducts health inspections of businesses like food establishments but doesn’t have the infrastructure to manage the vaccination program. But of course for Pekau, taking control of the program would give him a political edge, which is his priority.
In contrast, Orland Township and Supervisor Paul O’Grady has a proven record of not only managing real healthcare services for residents, including and especially seniors who are the most vulnerable, but they have an expansive health care services network that includes providing immunizations.
Click here to view all of Orland Park’s services, which do not include hands-on health services other than operating a fitness center.
Why would the IDPH or Pritzker give Pekau the authority to provide any immunization services, especially in the face of an endless record of hostile rhetoric that has come from the village against the state and nearly every other elected official at the state, county and regional level.
And why would you give the power to distribute vaccinations to a politician who refuses to wear face masks all the time in public when surrounded at public events, and refuses to even consider enforcing a face mask ordinance that would reflect the recommendations of the CDC?
Although Pekau’s allies on the board criticized the CDC, claiming they couldn’t find information about its face mask policies, the policies are easily found. The CDC clearly recommends that people two years of age and older wear face masks.
Click this link to read their recommendation.
The CDC recommends, “People age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.”
You can view them yourself by clicking here. They are not hard to find, if you want to find them.
The question is why wouldn’t you require residents to wear face masks when businesses already require it? Why not set an example of leadership that leans towards public health safety, rather than say it’s up to the individual person to decide.
COVID-19 is very contagious. Not wearing a face mask is like not covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
If you are going to supervise the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccinations, you should at least believe that taking every possible precaution including wearing face masks to prevent the virus spread is important. I’m sure that’s a consideration Governor Pritzker and the IDPH will weigh when they decide who will be in charge of vaccine distribution in Orland.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. You can get more information on his writing and podcasts by visiting www.Hanania.com.)
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