During an April 27 Oak Park village board meeting, a unanimous vote of the board extended the declaration of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic until June 1. The village board passed the original declaration over a month ago at an emergency morning meeting on March 13.

At Monday’s meeting heads of various village departments gave positive updates regarding their ability to carry out work during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Things have been going pretty well over here at the fire department, operationally,” Fire Chief Tom Ebsen said. “I have to say we’ve held our own very well.”

According to Ebsen, fire personnel clean the stations every day with disinfectant and they have a well-stocked supply of personal protection equipment (PPE). 

The fire department now transports an average of one to two symptomatic patients per day, according to Ebsen.  

“As far as transporting patients who are symptomatic, we saw a peak in our department in the first two weeks of April,” Ebsen said. “That was when we had our highest number of transports of patients who were symptomatic. The last two weeks it took about a 30 percent dip.”

On duty fire personnel conduct employee temperature checks three times: when shift starts, halfway through the shift and when they get off. To date, no fire personnel has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Oak Park Police Department has also implemented employee temperature monitoring, as well as alternative scheduling and a one-to-one internal PPE exchange, said Police Chief LaDon Reynolds.

“Everyone in the police department is required to wear a mask. Because of the size of the hallways and the size of the police department, it’s virtually impossible to be more than six feet from each other,” Reynolds said. “Whether you’re in the station or in public view, everyone is to wear a mask.”

The police department is also distributing masks, provided to them by the Park District of Oak Park, to those in need. Of the 200 masks they received, they have distributed 180. Police distribute masks upon request.

“If we run out, we take peoples’ names and they can come back and pick them up as we get resupply,” Reynolds said.

Oak Park’s public works department has assisted in decontaminating equipment and the station whenever officers bring someone in who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“There has been an uptick in violent crime unfortunately. We’re seeing some results of that as of late, but I think it’s something that is regional,” Reynolds said.

The chief also relayed that he has received concerns from sworn personnel unions regarding COVID-19, which he is addressing.

“There are police officers dying across the nation and essential workers, just like the medical healthcare professionals, the officers have to be out there,” Reynolds said.

In many instances regarding policework, officers cannot maintain six feet of distance. According to Reynolds, officers have concerns regarding their own health and safety, as well as that of their families.

“I think we did a really good job as a village to approach this and mitigate it early. Our early decision was positive, and I think it allayed a lot of the concerns that our union members have, and I continue to have communication with them,” he said.

All three Oak Park police officers who tested positive for COVID-19 have returned to work.

The public works department has fared well using its three-shift staffing model, according to Public Works Director John Wielebnicki. When not on shift, most people work from home. 

In the next couple of weeks, the department plans to plant more trees. 

The department has received more calls of late, which is not unusual for this time of year. Callers mostly have questions regarding wood chips, compost deliveries and tree trimming. 

Oak Park Public Health Director Mike Charley said his department held an orientation earlier that day for 23 new volunteers. Volunteers were trained in “dispensing and contract tracing.”

A number of people who signed up to volunteer could not make that orientation, so a second orientation will happen soon. The public health department is still accepting volunteer requests.

“We have plenty of PPE at this point. We have been receiving requests from healthcare organizations and we have been fulfilling some of those requests,” Charley said. “There is a team of village employees who are aggressively trying to procure additional PPE, but it’s a very competitive process with everyone else that is also looking for that PPE.” 

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