Blue Island mayor shuts down police department after someone tests positive for COVID-19

Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas shut down the city’s police department Sunday for reports that a member of the department tested positive for coronavirus, according to the south suburb’s state representative.

“I have since learned that Mayor Domingo Vargas made a unilateral decision at 1 a.m. Sunday (today) to suspend all police department activities,” Il. Rep Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said in a statement. “At no point did the Mayor’s office contact my office, any member of the City Council or any other local leaders in making this rash decision.”

In an email to aldermen, Marisol Barrera, the mayor’s assistant, said “several people have reached out and expressed concerns about having identified an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. Please understand that we are doing our best to keep you informed about the situation and in the mean time, we are obligated to maintain confidentiality in said situation.”

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police are conducting patrols in Blue Island until the local police are reactivated.

“While this is not a long-term solution, please be assured that there are County and State police available should residents need their help,” Rita said, adding that residents should still call 911 in case of an emergency.

“In the event that a first responder falls ill with COVID-19 or any other illness, there are state-mandated protocols in place to protect both the employee and any others coming in contact with that person…,” Rita said. “Based on current information, these vital protocols were not followed by Mayor Vargas when making his decision.”

Neither Vargas or Barrera responded to requests for comment.