Chesney: Pritzker’s Political Shutdown Rebutted by the Science and Data in Region 1

We are now well into Governor Pritzker’s latest shutdown of the Northwest Illinois economy, purportedly because of “science and data”, regardless of whether that science and data contradicts the mitigation measures he has placed on Region 1 residents.

First, the regions are arbitrarily designated, as I have pointed out in the past. Their boundaries were not built from hospital catchment areas, but rather regions drawn for other emergency protocols and ill-suited to fit the modern threat of contagions like viruses. East Dubuque is held to the same standard as Rockford, despite the fact it would take you an hour and 45 minutes to drive between the two cities, both within Region 1.

Contact Tracing can now be identified as yet another example of government “waste, fraud and abuse” due to the Governor’s arbitrary actions regarding mitigation measures put into place in Region 1. Our region has been doing contact tracing and found scant linkage to outbreaks in Region 1 from bars and restaurants. Yet, here we are, shutting them down and sending more hardworking Illinois employees to overfilled unemployment call queues as they attempt to salvage their livelihoods before the next set of arbitrary political decisions knock their lives sideways. If contact tracing found no linkage between bars and restaurants and Pritzker still shut them down- why are we doing contact tracing? What is this data being used for, if not to inform policy decisions like this by the Governor?

The positivity rates cited by the Governor and utilized in the basis of this decision are, again, arbitrary. They are not rates established by the CDC and certainly not best practices mirrored in other states, most importantly our Midwest neighbors with which Stateline regions compete for residents and revenues. Many of these mitigation measures are seemingly “unique” to Illinois. Why does the virus infect Illinoisans at high school sports events or haunted houses, but that is seemingly not the case in Wisconsin or Iowa?

The ability for regions to work themselves out of the kind of “enhanced mitigation techniques” the Governor has put into place is disproportionate. Indeed, regions that have been successful at lowering their rates have largely done so through widespread, free testing. This has been even easier in areas with free state testing being provided widely. College towns with testing facilities benefit from students required to be tested, allowing a much higher amount of negative test results to counterbalance the positives found when only symptomatic testing is done for those who believe they may have been exposed to COVID.

Our Northwest Illinois bars and restaurants have been hit hard this year. Yet, they have largely strived to comply with face covering requirements, reduced capacity and other mitigation measures, despite the fact they lose money while doing it. They have hoped for better days and hoped this would all be temporary. That 15 days is now looking like it could be 15 months. It is unsustainable for both the businesses and the employees they support. The Governor has sent too many working families to an unending unemployment queue with these political, and all too often, arbitrary decisions.

I am very proud that our regional legislative delegation came together in a bipartisan manner to request additional review and delay of these arbitrary mitigation measures. Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) should be commended for putting his constituents above politics in joining Republican members in opposing the Governor’s arbitrary actions as they relate to Region 1.

It is not anti-science or data to ask for justification of a political decision like what has been made here. Documentation and replication as well as peer review evaluation are critical elements of the scientific process. Why is peer review evaluation being denied by Governor Pritzker? Why is he hiding his documentation and proof of replication for conclusion that “shutting down bars and restaurants reduces the spread”? These are all questions that your regional delegation has asked the Governor and we expect answers.

Andrew S. Chesney is an elected Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives for the 89th district.

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