Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he's considering a phased approach to reopening the state's economy when coronavirus cases begin to subside.
Speaking at his daily coronavirus press briefing Wednesday, Pritzker said he agrees "100%" with a region-by-region approach, but that doesn't necessarily mean geographically.
"I 100% agree with the idea that where it is safe and where there's more distance for people and where we can open businesses that don't force people to congregate together in larger groups than 10 at a time and so on, then we want to do that," he said, noting, however, that the approach centers on healthcare zones.
"The way we think about regions is really in health care zones," he said. "You know, where are the hospitals, how many beds are available at the hospitals that would serve a certain area of the state, rather than the way sometimes people talk about regions of the state as well. I live in southern Illinois or I live in little Egypt or you know, whatever. These are all great ways to identify areas of the state, but the way we look at it is about health care and keeping people healthy. And so that's how, you know when you talk about regions, that's how we're thinking about it."
Pritzker noted that the early stages of that thinking will begin taking effect Friday with the modified stay-at-home order in locations that have few or possibly even no confirmed cases of the virus. The amended order allows for some businesses to be deemed "essential" and begin reopening, but with restrictions.
"We identified state parks, many of them are in those areas of the state and we've opened those," he said. "We are opening those state parks, which had been closed in part to keep the residents or other visitors safe, but also to keep the state workers safe, who have to congregate in small facilities there, sometimes several of them in a in a truck all at once. So we wanted to keep them safe. So that's one way. There are another other ways. For example, when we allowed elective surgeries, we made sure that the areas of the state that have the most availability of hospital beds, and ICU beds had the most availability of elective surgeries. And so those are examples of the ways in which we've kind of, you know, gradually allowed certain areas to do more than other areas."
But Pritzker cautioned that the state has not yet hit its peak.
"We have to be responsible because the it's not just you, the business owner that you're keeping safe by by staying closed, you're also keeping the patrons safe by keeping closed and so it's we just need a little while longer here while we move past this peak- if we can move," he said. "And I'm following, you know for those who think that the President of the United States is the person that they want to follow on this, all I can say is they put out a federal plan, some of which I think is is right. And so, you know, past peak, we want to make sure that we're moving down the other side of that peak, and then we can start to open things."
Pritzker added he wants to do whatever possible to keep people safe without further spreading the virus.
When asked about hair or nail salons, he echoed those comments, but acknowledged it's unclear which "phase" those might fall in.
"Look, we're considering how to open all kinds of different businesses," he said. "It is hard. I mean, I've listened to epidemiologists about this and Dr. Ezike and others. It is hard to, you know, in businesses where people are going to be face to face or, you know, very close to one another in providing a certain service. You know, there's no social distancing that could be done in that circumstance. Having said that, you know, we've seen other states doing, thinking about this and where they put it in their phases of reopening. And that's one that we're certainly considering haven't figured out exactly which phase to put that in."
Pritzker said some Illinois mayors have submitted proposals for how they would like to reopen their towns, calling them "very helpful."