Amid warnings from Gov. J.B. Pritzker that businesses could be held accountable or even lose their licenses if they open in defiance of his stay-at-home order, more suburban mayors are seeking to convince the governor to change his mind, saying their virus numbers are low enough to reopen now.
“We’re not really asking the governor to do anything different than he has already proposed,” Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager said.
Sager is one of several mayors in McHenry County asking Pritzker for permission for their county to move forward into Phase 3 of the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan. Under the current parameters of the plan, regions aren’t eligible to move into Phase 3 until May 29 at the earliest, but as things stand now McHenry County, a part of the Northeast region in the plan, would not be eligible to move forward, as the region’s positivity rate of coronavirus tests still is too high.
Despite the overall numbers of the region, Sager says that McHenry County is at a point where it could conceivably move ahead to Phase 4 instead.
“We are not at Phase 2, which the state has been determined to be, but we are now at Stage 3 and we’re closing in on Stage 4,” he said.
Multiple counties have indicated their desire to be moved into another region, saying that the problems that Chicago and Cook County are experiencing do not impact them to a sufficient degree to warrant having their fate tied to the hard-hit region.
DuPage, Grundy and Kankakee counties have all shown interest in moving out of the Northeast region in an attempt to reopen businesses sooner.
Despite the cries to be moved forward in the timetable, Pritzker is adamant that the restrictions his administration has put into place are important to maintain the state’s progress against the spread of the virus.
“You weren’t elected to do what’s easy. You were elected to do what’s right,” he said.
Pritzker has even indicated that counties that decide to move forward with reopening could potentially run into financial penalties, including being denied federal money from the economic recovery bills passed by Congress.
“Counties that try to reopen in defiance of the order may not be reimbursed by FEMA for damage they cause,” he said.
Sager says that painting the counties as “defiant” is an error on the part of the governor, and says that they are trying to work with the governor on an equitable solution that will keep people safe, while also allowing businesses to try to get back on their feet.
“We’re trying not to be defiant and we don’t want to be characterized that way,” he said. “We’re trying to be characterized as working collaboratively with the governor.”