I hope you are well! The Lake County Health Department (LCHD), businesses, schools, non-profits, retail pharmacies and health care providers continue to work together to help get people vaccinated. The LCHD is limited by the amount of vaccine received, and there is currently a worldwide shortage.
With the recent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I have been told that there will soon be an increase in supply and more volunteers will be needed. It is critically important that hospitals increase their appointment availability to more people beyond their patient base. Some key points:
- To get everyone vaccinated, we will need an "all hands on deck" approach. The vast majority of vaccinations must be carried out by health care providers, especially hospitals and doctor's offices. Most vaccines will be delivered to residents via traditional health care providers.
- The LCHD acts as a safety net and is expected to vaccinate 10-20% of the population. It does operate an additional vaccination site (the fairgrounds) to support the vaccination efforts of our partners.
- The LCHD is vaccinating Phase 1a and 1b with a focus on health care workers, first responders, and people aged 65 and over.
- The LCHD distributes vaccines to many partners across Lake County, which includes businesses, health care providers, schools, government partners, and non-profit agencies. Thank you to Abbvie and North Chicago Community Partners for funding and operating the site at Greenbelt Forest Preserve serving seniors in Waukegan and North Chicago! More information is below.
As I've written before, I believe it is so important that we provide a wellness triage center, or crisis center, for people who live with serious mental illness. A recent article highlights how much it is needed, and we are in the process of finding the right facility. I'm grateful for the many advocates who are working hard to provide education and reduce the stigma that still exists.
Tomorrow (PWPT meeting) and Thursday (Finance meeting) of this week, two committees will meet to discuss and vote upon a potential gas tax in Lake County. Last week during a joint committee hearing, members heard from the Director of Lake County Dept. of Transportation Shane Schneider on the backlog of infrastructure improvements in Lake County, including railroad grade separations, road widening, turn lanes, and other necessary improvements. I've included a link to last week's meeting here - click on #8 or go to Minute 5:55 to see the presentation.
Investing in infrastructure is directly related to economic development, road safety and increased quality of life for residents. The Lake County Board can make these investments either by taxing gasoline or by raising property taxes. Lake County is the only "collar" county (meaning those counties that surround Chicago/Cook-Will, Kane, DuPage, McHenry, and DuPage) that did not institute a 4¢ gas tax in the 1989-1991 time frame, relying instead on raising property taxes. Holding the line on property taxes was a priority for me when I became Chair of the board in 2019, and for the first time in at least two decades, this board did not raise property taxes for the last two years. Implementing a gas tax instead of relying on property taxes to fund infrastructure means that people from outside of Lake County who buy gas here will contribute to the maintenance of those roads, and Lake County is the third highest tourist destination in the state of Illinois.
In the two years I have served as Chair, the Board has saved money by moving offices into county-owned spaces; eliminating outdated taxing districts, and participating in joint purchasing contracts. We are also in the midst of an asset utilization study to determine how we can cut costs more, because we MUST. In response to the pandemic, we've implemented a hiring freeze, a wage freeze for elected officials and staff, and cut our 2020 budget. Certainly I wish there was a way to pay for our essential infrastructure needs without a gas tax, but there is not, other than raising property taxes, which is a non-starter for me.
As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you on the Lake County Board and the Forest Preserve Board. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns.