Springfield, IL - The top two Republican state lawmakers are calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to make his 'Restore Illinois' plan less restrictive for business owners. Senate Minority Leader Billy Brady and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to Pritzker on Monday. The leaders mention other states have "less restrictive paths toward reopening," such as New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says three upstate regions of the Empire State could partially reopen this weekend. Similar to Pritzker's plan to ease restrictions, Cuomo says he will "pull the plug or slow down the increase of activity" if COVID-19 cases started to spread again.
"Further economic hardship"
The Republicans support the Illinois Municipal League's plea for Pritzker to use a 14-day period in between each phase of Restore Illinois. Pritzker's plan currently calls for a span of 28 days with careful attention paid to hospitalization and COVID-19 data. "The parameters your plan puts in place in determining when a region can move between phases will only cause further economic hardship to small businesses in our state," the leaders stated.
Pritzker addressed the letter during his virtual press briefing Monday afternoon. The governor says everyone is working to get people back to work. But, he says they have to do it in a safe manner. "Remember that the 14 day guidance that was put out by the White House is actually more stringent than the guidance that we put out. Guidance would have required 14 days of a decline," Pritzker said. "And what we require is simply following a flattened number for 28 days, which is a much easier metric." This comes as new statewide projections show Illinois may not reach its peak of COVID-19 cases until mid-June. Pritzker says the earliest regions could move to Phase 3 is May 29. At that point, hair salons, barber shops and spas can reopen. People will also be able to gather in groups of 10.
11 EMS Regions
The lawmakers are also asking Pritzker to consider using Illinois' original 11 hospital regions found in the state's Emergency Medical Services map. Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole says many public officials are concerned about their current groupings. Restore Illinois combines the 11 regions into four groups: Northeast, North-Central, Central, and Southern Illinois. "Governor, you have traveled this state as much or more than anyone else and you know how vastly different it is from one corner to another," Cole wrote.
Pritzker says he understands some people want to break the state up into each individual county, city or town. However, he explained that won't happen. "There needs to be a uniformity to the way that we manage the state of Illinois. We've broken the state up into four regions, allowing each one of them with the same set of metric to perhaps be faster to move into another phase than another," Pritzker said. "That's why we put the plan forward as it is."
Brady and Durkin are also asking Pritzker to call the General Assembly back to Springfield for a special session. Lawmakers haven't been in the chambers since March 5, but members are currently hashing out plans in virtual working groups. However, the leaders want to return to "further discuss and develop the necessary adjustments to your plan that protects the public's health while at the same time moves our economy forward more quickly." Pritzker has addressed this question several times over the last few weeks. He says lawmakers can return while using proper safety precautions. However, Pritzker says the Democratic leaders have the final say on when session resumes.