Winnebago County will allow restaurants, child care facilities and churches to reopen on June 1, nearly a month earlier than the timeline outlined in Illinois' reopening plan, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and county health officials said Monday.
"The data is showing and is beginning to show our metrics are where they need to be to make reopening earlier than many of us expected," McNamara said at a news conference. "We're working to reopen three critical areas of our community that were not expected to open until the end of June."
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McNamara said restaurants, child care facilities and youth programs, as well as houses of worship would be able to reopen on June 1 with guidance from 140 people working on 15 different advisory committees tasked with creating a strategy for the area to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
"I trust our business owners and the members of the Rockford Region Rebounding working groups to come up with recommendations that they will submit to the Winnebago County Health Department by the end of this coming week," McNamara said, adding that the health department would review the plans submitted and share more details and guidance in a briefing on May 26.
Should these institutions in Winnebago County reopen on June 1, that would be nearly a month earlier than the reopening date outlined in the timeline Gov. J.B. Pritzker put forth earlier this month.
Under Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan, bars and restaurants as well as child care providers cannot reopen until phase four. All four regions of Illinois are currently in phase two of the plan, on track to enter phase three on May 29, based on data like positivity rate of coronavirus tests, hospital admissions, ICU capacity and more. Once in phase three, the soonest any region in the state could enter the next phase would after another 28 days without an increase in hospital admissions, or June 26 at the absolute earliest.
Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through the end of the month, prohibiting all activity and gatherings not deemed essential. Some local officials have taken legal action against Pritzker's order, seeking to reopen sectors of the economy more quickly.
"We still have several more days of this stay-at-home order. I ask that you continue to be part of this shared responsibility," McNamara said Monday, urging residents specifically to follow the order, keep washing hands regularly and wearing face coverings when in public.
McNamara added that while the county's timeline differs from the governor's, he was not seeking a legal fight with Pritzker over the reopening plan - and that changes may still be coming.
"We're not looking to get into a political battle, or a battle between local and state," McNamara said. "That's certainly not what any of us want to do or plan to do."
"Our understanding is that the executive order ends at the end of May, and so beyond that, he has provided the state a framework and guidelines for a plan," McNamara continued. "Those are two different and distinct things. Today to then, could the state legislature adjust that? Yes. Could he adjust that? Yes. But as of now, today, there has been no future adjustments or no other information provided us."
"I think it's incumbent on us locally to begin to plan for those days beyond the executive order because we haven't been communicated with what that executive order could be or will be or will there be even an executive order," he continued.