Blue Island mayor defends decision to close police department over COVID-19

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BLUE ISLAND, Ill. — The mayor of Blue Island says reversing his decision over the weekend to shut down the police department due to a positive COVID-19 test was wrong and dangerous.

Aldermen in the south suburb overwhelmingly voted to reverse Mayor Domingo Vargas’ decision and take that power out of his hands during an emergency meeting.

Vargas said all he was doing was following the advice of public health officials

“My main goal here is not to be political … it’s a life or death issue,” Vargas said.

It all started Saturday when the mayor got word that a police officer tested positive for COVID-19 and another was hospitalized while awaiting test results.

Vargas and his emergency management team contacted public health officials with the state and county who advised him to shut down the police department.

Vargas called in Cook Co. Sheriff’s Dept. deputies to cover the streets.

Two aldermen and State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) said the decision was made without contacting any elected officials and did not follow the protocol of Illinois State Police for a positive COVID-19 test.

The mayor says an effort was made to contact aldermen.

On Sunday, the Blue Island City Council voted overwhelming to take power from the mayor to shut down the department and give it to the fire and police chiefs.

Vargas said the aldermen and Rita are wrong on the issue and are just trying to make the him look bad.

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