Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder tests positive for COVID-19
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder informed city council members Monday and confirmed to The State Journal-Register that he tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
Langfelder is quarantining at and working from home. Langfelder, who is vaccinated and has received the COVID-19 booster, tested positive Sunday along with his wife, Billie.
The couple's daughter, who lives at home, tested positive Saturday. Other immediate members of the family, Langfelder said, have received negative test results.
Meanwhile, Langfelder said the city could look to bring back its mask mandate, which included policing of businesses, especially if hospitalizations continue to rise, though that action would come with input from local health officials.
Langfelder said he would be watching Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, but he did not plan to join it remotely.
Langfelder said his symptoms have been more cold-related, such as a runny nose. His wife, who has also received the booster, had a sore throat and a headache along with losing her sense of taste, Langfelder said.
The mayor said he will test Wednesday and if that test shows up negative, he will test again Friday. If that turns out negative, Langfelder said he planned to return to work Tuesday.
"It doesn't matter if it's me or if you're the head of the hospital or anybody in authority or a person on the front lines or on the streets, this impacts everybody the same," Langfelder said. "What it comes down to is what risks do you want to take? I'm a believer that, for my family especially, you want to take whatever precautionary measures you can.
"The masks, the vaccinations, you don't necessarily do it for yourself, but more importantly for your loved ones or the people you're around."
Langfelder's breakthrough case shows how infectious the omicron variant is, said Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin.
"The mayor took the very positive step of testing himself immediately and that helps prevent further spread because he's in isolation," McMenamin. "I really commend the mayor for (doing that)."
The city council authorized a mask mandate in early November 2020, along with fines and other potential penalties, though it repealed the ordinance June 15. The council took the ordinance off the city’s books despite Langfelder’s request to leave it on but not enforce it so the mandate could be reinstituted, if needed.
A state mask mandate remains in place in all indoor public places including city buildings and businesses.
Short of re-instituting the city's mask mandate, Langfelder said city officials would reemphasize the importance of mask wearing and getting vaccinations and boosters. One vehicle would be through bringing back the mayor's weekly Facebook live sessions.
"Hopefully things settle down (numbers-wise), but if they don't, that's the next step we could take, if we feel we need to do that, which would be the actual policing of it," Langfelder said. "We'll keep assessing the situation, but if it gets to the point to where we believe we would need to bring a more restrictive nature or enforcement of it, that's something we would introduce to the council for action. That's an alternative."
Langfelder said the driving force would be hospitalizations. On Monday, Sangamon County Department of Public Health officials reported 107 Sangamon County residents in the hospital for COVID-19-related illnesses, topping a previous record high from Nov. 24, 2020.
McMenamin said any implementation by the city should come in cooperation with the county health department and the hospital health directors.
"If they make that recommendation, I think we should pursue it," McMenamin said. "Until then, I think city elected officials should wait for guidance from the health officials. What we’ve learned is that the omicron spike is dramatic and then it recedes dramatically also, so hopefully that will be our experience here in Sangamon County."
Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley said the city should be encouraging compliance with Gov. JB Pritzker's current executive order.
"We have a mask mandate," Conley said. "What the city should be doing is continuing to encourage that. The city should be supporting people who need to be working remotely and be flexible about what our expectations of what people can or cannot do.
"Let's make sure people know how to follow (the mask mandate) and be safe respectful of their neighbors, and your neighbor is anyone standing within six feet of you."
Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan said he would want to make sure that any local mask mandate is consistent with what is done at the state level to avoid as much confusion as possible.
"It's something we'll have to flush out at the council level and see what (the mayor) may have in mind and what's being recommended by the public health professionals," Donelan said. "It's unfortunate that the numbers recently have been increasing. I think it's safe to say we've all been, unfortunately, impacted."
Ward 3 Ald. Roy Williams Jr. admitted it's a balancing act between maintaining policies about keeping everyone safe while respecting people's rights to do what they want.
"I encourage people to think for the common good and the common good is keeping everybody safe and hopefully we can do that," Williams said. "Fining people isn't always the answer and it would be a nightmare to enforce (a city mask mandate) the way it should be done anyway."
This story will be updated.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, email@example.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.