Naperville to explore local mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 cases

  • Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico

    Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico

  • Naperville Councilman Benny White and other elected officials are featured in a series of videos promoting the wearing of face masks in public. Mayor Steve Chirico is now proposing taking a step further and enacting a citywide mask mandate to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

    Naperville Councilman Benny White and other elected officials are featured in a series of videos promoting the wearing of face masks in public. Mayor Steve Chirico is now proposing taking a step further and enacting a citywide mask mandate to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. YouTube Video Screenshot

 
 
Updated 11/18/2020 4:39 PM

As COVID-19 infections soar throughout the suburbs, the Naperville City Council is considering enacting a citywide ordinance that would require face coverings to be worn in public.

The measure would aim to localize the state's mask mandate in terms of awareness and enforcement, said Mayor Steve Chirico, who brought forward the topic for discussion Tuesday.

 

Though the concept will likely be controversial among some community members, he said, it could promote compliance and help curb a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations.

"I think we have a couple months coming up that are going to be very, very difficult for this country and for the world until this vaccine starts to get distribution," Chirico said. "If a local mandatory mask ordinance ... were to help prevent the transmission of this virus, then I think it'd be worth it, even though there'd be a lot of criticism for it."

The proposal gained support from several council members, who directed city employees to explore potential regulations related to enforcement, punishment and other logistics. The issue is expected to be brought back before the council Dec. 1.

"The devil is in the details," Councilman Patrick Kelly said. "What I'd want to know is, what, if anything, beyond what the state requires would we require at the local level?"

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Similar rules have been adopted in suburban towns such as Des Plaines and Buffalo Grove. So as not to reinvent the wheel, Chirico said, Naperville could research best practices and seek guidance from communities that have found success enacting mask mandates.

City officials previously declined putting a mask ordinance on the books due to enforcement concerns, opting instead to create a series of videos as part of a public service campaign to promote the wearing of face coverings.

Councilman Kevin Coyne on Tuesday stressed the importance of continuing to push that message but said he remains skeptical of the effectiveness of a mask mandate.

In addition to being difficult to enforce, he said, he envisions such an ordinance "completely inflaming" those who reject the need for COVID-19 regulations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I don't think it's going to be helpful," Coyne said. "I think it may make it counterproductive."

But many council members said they believe the concept is worth exploring if it has the potential to mitigate the surge of new infections and ease the strain on local health care workers.

As of Wednesday morning, Edward Hospital in Naperville was treating 90 inpatients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Roughly 23% of the medical center's beds were in use by virus patients earlier in the week, city metrics show.

"It's not about you, it's about other people around you," Councilman Benny White said. "It's a health crisis that needs to be addressed that affects everyone else around you."

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