Town Begins Firefighter Coronavirus Testing
The Town of Normal is starting coronavirus testing this week for firefighters who have not been vaccinated.
City Manager Pam Reece said it's in response to an executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker. Reece said 77% of firefighters had previously volunteered they are vaccinated.
The contagious Delta variant has caused some COVID-19 cases with low or no symptoms among those who have had the vaccine. But Reece said the town is not now considering mandatory testing of all firefighters as an added layer of protection for the public.
"I don't think we're there yet, honestly. I am very pleased with the measures our first responders have taken to keep themselves well and their customers well," Reece told WGLT.
President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers has made it easier for city and county governments to have a conversation about vaccine mandates at the local level. But Reece said the town won't rush to have that dialogue.
"We're going to be looking for direction from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the Labor Department) on how to proceed and who does it apply to and what are the regulations. Those parameters have not yet been released. I wouldn't be surprised if it does mandate some sort of vaccination requirement to government entities," said Reece.
Reece said it's a good question where the conversation about a vaccine mandate for staff would originate. Usually, a policy question like that starts with the town council, although staff can and does submit recommendations. In the case of federal labor rules, though, she said there may be less flexibility, and staff could end up simply informing the council of the requirements for implementation.
The developer of the Trail East project in Uptown Normal pulled out last week, but Reece said another developer is feeling slightly more optimistic about filling unused first floor space on Uptown Circle.
After years of false starts, she said the developer of Uptown One tells her there's interest in the ground floor there for a restaurant that is not part of a chain. The developer lost at least 1 1/2 years to the economic downturn during the pandemic, said Reece.
"I believe the developer's goal is to be independent. I think that's dependent on the economy, where the pandemic is headed. So, I think they are just cautiously optimistic that a restaurant is in the near future," said Reece.
Past efforts to secure a long-planned restaurant for that space have foundered, in part because of the relatively large (for a restaurant) space.
"I know that they still have an interest in a restaurant use for a good portion of the space, not all of the 6,500 square feet. So, at this point I think by the spring of 2022 they would hope to have a restaurant ready to go," said Reece.
She said about 2,500 square feet would be used as retail space.