Why Elk Grove Village wants to set up its own health department

  • Courtesy of Elk Grove Village TelevisionElk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, who officially began his seventh term after being sworn in Tuesday night, has endorsed a series of tax and fee hikes to pay for roads, sidewalks and drainage projects.

    Courtesy of Elk Grove Village TelevisionElk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, who officially began his seventh term after being sworn in Tuesday night, has endorsed a series of tax and fee hikes to pay for roads, sidewalks and drainage projects.

  • Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson

 
 
Updated 2/23/2022 6:40 AM

In his latest challenge of state and county COVID-19 rules, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Tuesday announced plans to establish a municipal health department that could elude future mandates.

The village board endorsed Johnson's recommendation to direct the village attorney and staff to further research the issue and come back with a plan on how it could be done.

 

The announcement came the same day that Cook County joined Chicago in deciding to lift most face mask and proof-of-vaccination requirements starting Monday, Feb. 28 -- the same day Gov. J.B. Pritzker is ending the state mask mandate.

But Johnson said he's making preparations for any future mandates, should there be new variations or surges in COVID-19. He says he was triggered by Pritzker's decision to appeal the school mask requirement ruling to the state Supreme Court.

"We know for sure towns can have it," Johnson said of a local health department. "We know no one has gotten one in a while. But we know you can still get it."

"We are very serious about this. This isn't some kind of publicity stunt."

Within Cook County, only Chicago, Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie and Stickney Township have their own state-certified municipal health departments, and many have been on the books for decades, if not centuries. Evanston's started in 1874. Skokie's was the latest, in 1960.

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But since then, Johnson argued there's been many changes in state law to the authority granted to home-rule municipalities like Elk Grove Village. And he believes those home-rule powers would allow the village -- through its own village board, or a separate health board -- to enact its own regulations on masking and vaccinations, or any other health issues.

As it is, Johnson already announced a "masks-optional" policy for municipal buildings and businesses in town last October, in defiance of Pritzker's statewide requirement. And he said the village isn't enforcing Cook County's proof-of-vaccination order to enter restaurants, bars and gyms that started in January.

So what difference would having a local health department make?

"You put businesses in a tough position," Johnson said of the current state and county rules. "We'll bring some clarity to the situation."

Still, Elk Grove would need some level of approval from state officials to establish its own health department, but it's unclear who grants that authority. The Illinois Department of Public Health -- now run by the Pritzker administration -- has certified the other municipal health departments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Johnson suggested the legislature might be able to grant certification.

Johnson at the village board meeting Tuesday night continued to rail against the governor's executive actions, even asking two new firefighters before their ceremonial swearing-in, "What word isn't in the Constitution?"

"Mandates," they said.

"It is time for this craziness to end," Johnson said. "It will in Elk Grove. I can promise you and guarantee you that this village will always rule by the rule of law through the legislative process, not by mandates."

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