Business owners protest to open Illinois’ economy amid COVID-19 pandemic

While the governor was holding his daily press briefing in Chicago Sunday, protesters were demonstrating in Springfield to reopen the state’s economy.

In announcing 53 deaths related to COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday that of more than 13,000 tests since the day before, there were 2,126 positive cases.

“For a state total of 43,903 which includes many individuals who have already recovered,” Pritzker said.

Protests outside the Illinois State Capitol drew several dozen people from around the state. Some were business owners affected by Pritzker’s stay-home order that’s been in effect since March 21.

Those orders lead to more than 700,000 Illinoisans filing for unemployment benefits since the beginning of March.

Ashley McLemore from Dixon traveled to Springfield to protest the orders and to urge the state’s economy to reopen. She said they had to close their music teaching business.

“The day that we closed, we had ten instructors and 85 students and about 90 percent of those students were coming for music therapy,” McLemore said. “And, yeah, we’re done. We’re officially closed.”

She said her business and many others fell through the cracks for government assistance and urged the governor to open the state’s economy back up.

Yoder’s Kitchen owner Anna Herschberger in Douglas County also was in Springfield Sunday protesting.

“We are doing carryout, but obviously our business is down by 85 percent,” Herschberger said. “I have 110 employees and I can only employ six at a time, so that’s really difficult.”

While she said she did qualify to get assistance from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, her employees want to get back to work.

“They’re not ones to take money from the government,” she said. “They don’t even want to take that … so we just need to be able to open up again.”

Some sheriffs around Illinois have said they won’t enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order, something the governor said will lead to people getting sick.

Herschberger said “that’s great” that her sheriff in Douglas County said he won’t enforce the order and she hopes to fully reopen soon. She hopes Sheriff Joshua Blackwell’s actions send a message to other sheriffs.

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