The Mount Vernon Drury Inn has its first guests as an alternative housing location booked, and they’re local.

“I received a phone call early this morning from the IEMA Director, Brigadier General Alicia Tate-Nadeau, informing me that a request has been submitted to activate the Drury Inn for housing,” said John Lewis, Mayor of Mount Vernon in an April 19 Facebook post. “She had personally assured me earlier in the week that she would call me directly if there was any change, and she kept her word.”

The Mount Vernon mayor also specified that the request to use the alternative housing location came from the local government itself.

“The request originated from our county for our people,” he said. “This is not being activated to bring people in from outside our area.

“This is a local request to the state for assistance with containment of the virus from an outbreak at the Green Tree Residential Living Center.”

Lewis noted that the request was for employees of Green Tree to have a an optional place to stay in order to avoid possibly spreading the virus to family members.

“These employees that we are requesting this facility to be activated for have tested negative for the virus.”

Such use of alternative housing falls in line with the state’s aims for the procured facilities. A respondent from an email address The Navigator was referred to when making inquiries into the matter stated that alternative housing should be as local-based a process as possible.

“The goal is to keep the person regionally based to remain close to family and his/her healthcare provider of record,” the respondent stated. “All counties are required to have their own alternative housing plan with accommodations to house at least 25 people.

“State plans are not activated until the local jurisdictions have exhausted their local resources.”

However, this seems to contradict information provided to The Navigator by Lewis in an interview last week.

“The background on this was, (the Illinois Emergency Management Agency) wanted us to go find a hotel/motel for this, worst case scenario,” Lewis explained. “So we found one.

“The next thing we know, the state’s behind our back, and they made a contract with the Drury.”

The terms in which the facility would be used also changed, according to Lewis.

“They gave us criteria for who was going to be housed there, and it was only going to be asymptomatic people that were in the same household as one that tested positive for COVID-19,” he recalled. “The rest of the family would go to this hotel.”

But as the location shifted at the state’s discretion, so too did the criteria for who would be housed there. Lewis stated that the city was informed that three different categories of people would be able to be referred to the Drury Inn alternative housing facility.

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.