An agreement between the state of Illinois and the Drury Inn in Mount Vernon, Ill. could see cases of COVID-19 from outside the region move into the area.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency divides the state into different regions, with Jefferson County, as well as Edwards, Wabash, White, Wayne and Richland Counties being amongst the 17 counties that comprise Region 9. At least one hotel within the region has been confirmed to have been booked for the purpose of alternative housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An IEMA representative confirmed that the organization had leased a hotel in Mount Vernon, though they did not state with which hotel they had come to terms.

”The State leased a facility for six months, with the ability to extend that lease for an additional six month term,” said Rebecca Clark, Public Information Officer for IEMA. “To protect our private-sector partners and the privacy of potential users, these location will not be identified at this time.”

However, multiple Mount Vernon city officials confirmed on April 8 that IEMA had purchased all rooms at the Drury Inn. Darren Bailey, State Representative of Illinois’ 109th District, also stated that he had seen state documentation of the purchase.

The rate of each room leased by IEMA is $89 per night, according to Bailey.

The rooms will be used as “alternative housing” related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Clark.

“The goal of Alternative Housing is offer alternative housing to individuals who lack the ability to safely isolate or quarantine,” she explained. ”Alternative is housing is available upon referral from a local health department, for the following:

-individuals exposed to COVID-19, but not requiring hospitalization

-individuals who are COVID-19 positive needing isolation, but not hospitalization

-asymptomatic high-risk individuals needing social distancing as a precautionary measure.”

The Federal Emergency Management Service has committed to reimbursing IEMA for costs associated with sheltering individuals who fall into one of the above-listed categories, according to a letter sent to local EMA Coordinators on April 7.

While IEMA now has the 180 rooms of the Drury Inn at their disposal, the number of confirmed cases in Region 9 fall far short of that number. As of Tuesday evening, the Illinois Department of Public Health had confirmed 69 cases of COVID-19 within the 17-county area.

Given the disparity between the two figures, The Navigator inquired as to whether IEMA felt as though an outbreak was on the horizon for the region.

“We are focused on meeting the needs of all communities in the state,” Clark stated. “This is in no way an indication of an anticipated surge in cases.”

She then confirmed that the housing will not be limited to those within Region 9.

“Yes, it is possible,” the IEMA spokesperson said in regard to people outside of Region 9 being sent to Mount Vernon. “Alternative housing is available based on a referral from a local health department.”

“The local health department would work with the county emergency management agency to find the best fit for the patient based on location and need of services.”

The local health department refers to the department in which the person being considered for alternative housing resides, rather than the department in which the housing is located.

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