A group of Illinois Senate Republicans are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lift additional restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus by Friday — weeks ahead of the timeline outlined in the governor’s reopening plan for Illinois.
“We continue to hear from our constituents, those not protesting but who remain worried their businesses, their livelihoods and their communities remain at continued economic risk due to the restrictions in place resulting from COVID-19,” said Illinois Sen. Republican Leader Bill Brady in a tweet. “It is time to move Illinois into Phase 4.”Bill Brady@SenBillBrady
We continue to hear from our constituents, those not protesting but who remain worried their businesses, their livelihoods and their communities remain at continued economic risk due to the restrictions in place resulting from COVID-19. It is time to move Illinois into Phase 4.
Pritzker rebuffed those calls at a press conference Wednesday, saying politics shouldn’t guide public health decisions.
“This pandemic, this COVID-19 isn’t like anything anyone has ever seen or knew how to deal with when it hit all 50 states. In Illinois, what we’ve done the right way is to rely upon the data, rely upon the science, and rely upon the experts,” Pritzker said. “You wouldn’t want political decisions made about public health.”
Illinois is currently in phase three of the governor’s five-phase reopening plan. Though the plan divides the state into four regions, all moved into phase three on May 29. The earliest any of the regions could move into the phase four, which would allow for indoor dining at restaurants and gatherings of up to 50 people, among other things, is June 26.
Brady, along with his colleagues in the Illinois State Senate Republican Caucus, sent a letter Wednesday to Pritzker stating their constituents don’t understand why they are prohibited from reopening their businesses while thousands gathered in public places to protest legally per their First Amendment rights.
The letter also points out that other Midwestern states are loosening their restrictions, including Michigan, which now allows in-person restaurant dining, and that Wisconsin has been open for weeks as COVID-19 cases in that state have flattened.
“Illinois remains one of the most restrictive states in the nation. Illinois restaurants, unlike those in neighboring Midwestern states, will still need to wait weeks before in-person dining could even be considered,” the letter to Pritzker states. “Gyms in Illinois remain shuttered and pools are only open for limited activities.”
The letter urges Pritzker to revise his reopening plan and adopt a 14-day timeline between phases rather than the 28-day timeline currently in place. If such a change were made, that would allow Illinois to move into phase four on Friday.
Republicans say data by the Illinois Department of Public Health shows the entire state could safely move into the next phase because each region is already operating at phase four levels in terms of the number of COVID-19 tests completed, hospital capacity and ventilator usage.
Pritzker acknowledged that all of the state’s regions are meeting the metrics to move onto phase four but stood firm in his decision to stick to the original time frame.
“At the moment, the challenge is each time we move from one phase to another (we have) to take a measure of that reopening on the hospitalization rates, (number of) cases and deaths,” Pritzker said. And while he agrees with the impetus to reopen, he said “the data doesn’t tell us now is the time.”