After a long winter, there’s nothing that Illinois residents want to do more than to go outside and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful weather, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing Illinois politicians to toe the line between keeping the public safe and allowing them to enjoy some outdoor activities.
Governor J.B. Pritzker is facing more questions this week about whether he will allow certain outdoor recreational spots, including golf courses and state parks, to re-open as the weather improves. With the state’s stay-at-home order in place until April 30, Pritzker says it’s critical to continue practicing social distancing, but that he is considering making some changes to COVID-19 restrictions to allow for more outdoor activities.
“We understand summer is different than what we’ve had up to now, which is colder weather,” he said. “Despite that, I do want to remind everybody that once again, we have bent the curve because we have had a stay-at-home order.”
Most of Illinois’ neighboring states, including Indiana and Wisconsin, are allowing golfers to return to courses under strictly controlled conditions, including keeping all clubhouse restaurants and bars closed and keeping players from removing flagsticks from holes.
Some Illinois golfers want the state to follow suit, and while Pritzker says he is considering options to allow residents to spend more time outside, he says that caution is the best course of action.
“We’re going to work hard to make it more normal and make it easier for people, and certainly we want people to be able to get outside and enjoy themselves,” he said. “There isn’t enough testing to really open everything back up, (That) means we have to leave things (closed).”
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Over the weekend, Pritzker said that he understands the frustration of Illinois residents who want to be able to golf or to visit state parks, but said that the peak of coronavirus cases in the state will determine how soon those locations will be able to re-open.
“I am looking at these kinds of things: what are the rules going to be? Would people have to space properly and wear masks?” he asked. “I want to remind you that we’re not even at our peak yet, and we have to start moving to the other side of the peak first. I’m personally inclined to (re-open facilities) because all of us want to have a great summer, but I can’t rely on my own instincts and desires.”
Illinois state parks are currently closed because of the pandemic, and golf courses are not considered “essential businesses” under the state’s stay-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire on April 30.
Pritzker said Tuesday that there will be changes made to the order, but did not elaborate on what those changes could entail.