County commissioners pass resolution giving Preckwinkle power to issue executive orders without advance approval

Before the vote, the head of the county health department told the board: “This is going to get worse. There’s going to be more people that are sick and there will be people that will die and our job is to minimize that ...”

SHARE County commissioners pass resolution giving Preckwinkle power to issue executive orders without advance approval
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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during a special board of commissioners meeting to consider a resolution extending the March 10, 2020 Proclamation of Disaster through May 31, Monday morning, March 16, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Monday that would allow Board President Toni Preckwinkle to issue any “necessary” executiveorders without the board’s advance approval as the county tries to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

That move extends through May 31 the disaster proclamation Preckwinkle issued last week.

The resolution would allow Preckwinkle to “issue any necessary Executive Orders to provide for the continuity of government to the extent possible, including addressing authorizations that may usually require the advance approval of the County Board; institute any such closures that may be necessary and implement any rules or regulation that may benefit the Cook County workforce and residents of Cook County during this Proclamation of Disaster” if the board or its Finance Committee are unable to meet in March or April.

The board president’s March 10 disaster proclamation resulted in the scaling back of meetings — those slated for next week were cancelled. In the county’s meeting room, at 118 N. Clark St., signs indicating that social distancing is in effect are taped on some seats while green tape covers others to make sure there are spaces between those in the room.

Seats were taped off and marked at the Cook County Board meeting Monday.

Seats were taped off and marked at the Cook County Board meeting Monday.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Before passing the measure unanimously, commissioners questioned Dr. Terry Mason, head of the Cook County Department of Public Health, about the virus and what the county is doing to mitigate its spread.

Mason applauded the work of health care workers but also had a warning.

“We’re going into a more difficult phase,” Mason said. “This is going to get worse. There’s going to be more people that are sick and there will be people that will die and our job is to minimize that as best as we possibly can. There are resources that will be strained, both at the public health level and at our hospitals and clinics, but we’ve been working with our hospital partners across Cook County to make certain that when testing becomes available more widely that we can get those to those areas that really really need it…”

At an unrelated press conference for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Preckwinkle stood with local U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jan Schakowsky and Sean Casten to call for better testing across the country.

Krishnamoorthi said the U.S. lags behind South Korea in its testing — that nation has tested 4,000 people for every million residents. The U.S. has tested 15 people for every million residents, the representative said.

“We have to up our game on this right now at the federal level and we will continue to provide the oversight to the federal government to make sure this happens but this is a source of great concern,” Krishnamoorthi said.

The bill guarantees sick leave for workers and their families who have been affected by the coronavirus as well as free testing for people suspected of being infected. It also enhances food aid through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and nutrition and food banks for seniors.

That bill will now go to the Senate for a vote and has the support of President Donald Trump.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during a special board of commissioners meeting to consider a resolution extending the March 10, 2020 Proclamation of Disaster through May 31, Monday morning, March 16, 2020.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during a special board of commissioners meeting to consider a resolution extending the March 10, 2020 Proclamation of Disaster through May 31, Monday morning, March 16, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

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