Chicago suburb feared COVID-19 facility in empty hotel

Building on earlier posts on COVID-19 NIMBYism and COVID-19 in suburbs, I return to a particular suburban case: many residents in the Chicago suburb of Itasca opposed a 2019 proposal for a drug rehab facility in an empty hotel. In recent days, concern mounted as the community thought that same hotel could become a facility to treat COVID-19:

The fate of a shuttered hotel in Itasca took another strange turn this week when local officials briefly thought it might be used to quarantine COVID-19 patients suffering mild symptoms or those at heightened risk from the virus.

It turned out to be a false rumor, but its circulation illustrates the opaque process through which government officials are trying to line up buildings for use in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has asked its county-level counterparts to create “an alternative housing plan” to assist at least 25 people. The federal government would reimburse counties for sheltering those who have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 but don’t require hospitalization, and “asymptomatic high-risk individuals needing social distancing as a precautionary measure.”

Some counties, though, aren’t saying much about their searches. Asked for specifics, a spokesman for the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said only that “we are working with our municipal agencies to identify needs as well as identifying potential community partners for potential housing.”

Read on for more details of official letters from the mayor to the medical company and back, bureaucratic vagueness, sharing theories on a local Facebook group, and the official denial.

Given how this played out, is it a wonder that some officials might follow an “opaque process”? If a county or state feels they need a facility as it has particular advantages, opposition from local residents could make it very difficult to move forward.

According to the DuPage County Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard (as of 4/10/20), Itasca had seven cases of COVID-19. This is where the typical NIMBY concerns – reduced property values, a threat to an existing way of life or the character of the community – makes less sense: COVID-19 is present in Itasca. Granted, it is less present there than in other DuPage County communities. But, a facility in Itasca could be helpful for local residents. The same question arose with the proposed drug treatment facility; is drug rehab an issue in Itasca, surrounding suburbs, and DuPage County or is it only an issue that occurs elsewhere? In both of these cases, the medical conditions can affect people across all sorts of communities.

3 thoughts on “Chicago suburb feared COVID-19 facility in empty hotel

  1. American people are so unbelievably selfish, why would Itasca residents be opposed to it? The novel coronavirus doesn’t skip certain people and suburbs, Itasca could have more cases and just don’t know yet because getting people tested had a rocky start. When or if it becomes a problem for them, then they will be clamoring like the rest of the state for testing and help. As a black registered nurse, I cringed when they started talking about black people getting sicker due to multiple co morbidities, well guess what many Americans, no matter their race have the same underlying issues as black people, obesity, pretty much we are the fattest country, DM type 1 and 2 doesn’t discriminate, htn, heart disease, renal insufficiency and failure are in every race. And most of these issues are obesity related. I sat in my car last night in quiet Lombard and watched all the illegal social non-distancing and they weren’t black, so black people aren’t the only people out having house parties and scoffing at the stay at home orders. People think that the inconvenience of not doing what they want is encroaching on their rights, so they go and do what they want, which in turn puts me, an ESSENTIAL WORKER, and my family at risk. I’m the only one that goes out to get food and goes to work at a risky job, my 72 year old mother and 79 year old father are at risk so they stay home, my 2 daughters, grandson and I have asthma so I try to keep them home. Stop only thinking of yourselves and risking my life and stay your ass at home and be appreciative you have that option and be appreciative of the fact that officials are trying to keep everyone safe.

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  2. The hotel was NOT vacant when Haymarket began bullying and railroading the village of Itasca. Of course there are going to be a small percentage of nimbys just like every other town. However, Haymarket gave false information and in some cases just never answered the questions the zoning board and fire department were asking.

    The main concern was the size of the facility (300+ beds) which would make it the largest of its kind in the entire country. Itasca is a small village of approximately 8,500 residents. We have one ambulance and can not afford to just go out and buy another and even if we did, we would have nowhere to put it unless we built another firehouse. The infractucture just isn’t large enough to handle such a huge complex. Wheaton turned them down for a 16 bed facility and NOBODY said a word. If that were still Haymarkets plan, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
    I really wish that the people that write these articles would get their facts straight before condemning an entire town. In addition, I never heard anyone being upset about the hote being used temporarily for Covid patients.

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