Top Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to make a series of changes to his administration’s phased reopening plan, arguing that “less restrictive paths” to reopening are needed to help the state recover from the economic damage caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin penned a letter to the governor on Monday, endorsing a plan from the Illinois Municipal League that would make a series of changes to the reopening plan.
“We believe (the plan) is far too restrictive to those businesses struggling to stay afloat economically during this crisis,” the leaders said in the letter. “Furthermore, the parameters your plan puts in place in determining when a region can move between phases will only cause further economic hardship to small businesses and our state.”
The proposal includes a provision that would lead the state to use a 14-day timetable to determine whether to move to a new phase of the plan, rather than the current 28-day timetable. The governor’s plan uses data on hospitalizations and new coronavirus cases to determine whether to move a specific region to the next phase of the reopening plan, but does so over a span of 28 days, rather than the 14 days that the IML and Republican lawmakers have argued for.
Brady and Durkin are also calling for the governor to alter the regional structure used in the reopening plan. Currently, the state is divided into four regions, with each one able to move between phases on its own, but lawmakers are calling for the governor to instead use a map dividing the state into 11 regions, which would allow counties closer to coronavirus hotspots like Cook County and Lake County to reopen sooner than the four-region plan would.
“We believe this adjustment would be a positive first step forward in assuaging the economic devastation this crisis is causing,” the leaders said.
Finally, Brady and Durkin are calling on the governor to convene a special session of the Illinois General Assembly to make further adjustments to the plan.
“We stand ready to return to the people’s Capitol to work together during this critical period in our state’s history,” they said.
Pritzker has argued that the four-region approach to reopening is critically important because of the amount of travel that goes on between counties in the specified regions. The governor has said that preventing hospitals from becoming overrun is a key component to any reopening plan, and insists that the four-region map is a better buffer against those types of issues than an 11-region map would be.
Currently, all of Illinois is in phase two of the governor’s five-phase reopening plan. The earliest that any of the four regions can move to phase three, when gatherings of 10 or fewer people will be allowed and some non-essential businesses, including hair salons and spas, would be able to reopen, is May 29.