Pritzker Says Reopening Guidance For Businesses Weeks Away, But There Will Be Consequences’ For Reopening Early

ILLINOIS — Businesses looking to partially reopen in Illinois later this month per Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan amid COVID-19 concerns may not get the guidance they need to be in time to be in compliance if their region enters the next phase of the governor’s reopening plan.

Pritzker’s five-phase plan to reopen the state’s economy has the state in Phase 2. Phase 3 could be possible at the end of the month with more businesses allowed to open with restrictions in place.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said businesses are ready to open while protecting the health of their clientele, but they’re not getting any clarity from the governor.

“They want to follow social distancing,” Butler said. “They want to get [personal protective equipment] so they can open their salons, things like that. But, No. 1, they’re not getting any guidance or help from the governor in doing this and for some of these people to wait until June or July or August or September to be able to open again, they’re going to be out of business.”

“So all of that is being worked on now, and we’ll certainly … over the next two weeks or so be releasing the information that’s useful to people in each and every one of those industries,” Pritzker said.

The governor said his administration has been talking with industry leaders.

“We’ve also asked industry to provide us with their best ideas about how to keep patrons and their employees safe,” Pritzker said.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said the governor also needs to listen to lawmakers. She said there’s growing bipartisan concern regarding his reopening plan. Most of the state should already be moving through to Phase 3 of the governor’s plan, she said.

“That May 29 is an arbitrary date that’s set by his own political calculations of his executive order,” Bourne said.

Others at the statehouse are demanding hearings on the governor’s plan when they return for the first time during the crisis next week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker again on Thursday made clear that businesses and local elected officials who don’t follow his plan for reopening Illinois could end up in trouble.

“There will be consequences,” the governor said during a video news conference from his home in Chicago.

Pritzker noted that some in the legal community had warned earlier Thursday that local law enforcement officials, governments and businesses could face lawsuits.

“The risk of opening early outweighs the benefit of limiting liability not only for a municipality but also for any employer who follows the guidelines of the municipality,” Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.

Pritzker said those who defy his stay-at-home order and five-phase reopening plan are putting others in danger.

“They’re putting people at risk, they’re making their communities unsafe, and they’ll be subject to liability as a result,” the governor said.

Pritzker said that while no one plans to send in police forces to make mass arrests, other consequences are possible.

“What we are doing is enforcing, using lots of different methods, using our licensing capabilities and our ability to pull licenses from businesses,” he said. “We’re using our ability to make sure that the towns that are following this get funded properly and that those that don’t, don’t.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the governor shouldn’t be threatening to withhold pass-through federal funding to local municipalities.

“First of all, I don’t think the governor should be threatening anyone on federal tax dollars that are pass-through dollars to our communities, that’s just ridiculous,” Butler said. “These are largely formula funds that get doled out on a lot of ways and for the governor to hold that over our community’s head is just ridiculous the governor would do that.”

The governor also said that local elected leaders considering flouting his rules need to do the job they were elected to do.

“Do your job. Lead. Be the person that they elected who is supposed to be protecting your community,” he said. “Don’t fall prey to the rhetoric that’s out there that says ‘oh, let’s just open up, this virus doesn’t affect anybody like me.’ You’re wrong.”

Butler said elected officials are listening to their constituents.

“I think the reason we’re seeing so many communities and counties and regions step forward is because the state of Illinois is passing up the governor on this,” Butler said. “People want to save lives, yes absolutely, but people also want to save their livelihoods. They want to get their communities back up and going again.”

Also Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,239 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 138 additional deaths.

Statewide, a total of 87,937 cases, including 3,928 deaths, in 99 of the state’s 102 counties have been reported, the agency said.

In the past 24 hours, laboratories reported 22,678 specimens for a total of 512,037 tests.

The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate was 17 percent. Regions must be under 20 percent in order to advance to the next phase of Pritzker’s reopening plan.

The Center Square – Brett Rowland

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