Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas said that he learned late Saturday night that an employee of the city's police department had tested positive for COVID-19.
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The mayor said the department has been temporarily shut down and no one is being allowed inside while the building is being cleaned.
"I gave the order, based on the recommendation I got," Mayor Domingo Vargas said. "We needed to get people out of there as quickly as possible and take necessary steps. We want to make sure our staff is protected, as well as the residents. That's out main concern."
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The department remained closed Monday morning, but Blue Island police officers returned to work.
Mayor Vargas said he has requested the Cook County Sheriff's Department to help assist in the city during this time.
Speaking Monday morning, Mayor Domingo Vargas said there may be other city employees infected by COVID-19.
"I received additional information from my investigators that besides he one person that has tested positive, we know that there is an additional one who is in the hospital awaiting verification or results whether that person has coronavirus. But here is my main concern: We learned and haven't heard back from the police department the status of four or five other city employees from the police department that had physical ailments. No additional information was given to us about these four to five other police personnel."
Over the last couple of weeks several area police departments have been impacted by the coronavirus. Four CPD officers have tested positive. Aurora PD, as well as Hazel Crest currently have officers at home in quarantine.
Illinois Rep. Bob Rita released a statement Sunday disagreeing with the mayor's "unilateral" decision to shut down the city's police department.
You can read Rep. Rita's full statement below:
"Early this morning, I was contacted by the Governor's office regarding policing and public safety in Blue Island. I have since learned that Mayor Domingo Vargas made a unilateral decision at 1 a.m. Sunday (today) to suspend all police department activities. 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 response to this action by the Mayor, my office has made contact and arrangements with both the Cook County Sheriff and Illinois State Police to ensure that Blue Island residents have police patrolling our community. While this is not a long-term solution, please be assured that there are County and State police available should residents need their help.
Residents should still call 911 if an emergency.
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I am also in frequent communication with the City Council and am calling on our alderman to convene an emergency meeting to address community policing during this crisis.
Our first responders are heroes because they remain on the frontlines during this crisis. 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.
These protocols are in place to ensure that we can protect both individual officers while not threatening the safety of the general public.
Based on current information, these vital protocols were not followed by Mayor Vargas when making his decision.
I am in frequent communication with both local leaders and the Governor's office and will be providing daily updates as we work through this difficult time.
We are also asking that anyone who is in possession of safety masks, gloves or other equipment consider donating those items to the Blue Island police and fire departments as we are facing a national shortage on protective items for first responders. Residents are invited to call my office at 708-396-2822 or email email@example.com with questions or concerns."