We have now entered Phase 4 of Gov. Pritzker’s gradual reopening plan for our state, and the restored freedoms for our families and businesses are certainly needed now to get our communities well on the road to recovery.
On March 12, Gov. Pritzker issued the first proclamation declaring that the coronavirus outbreak was a disaster in Illinois. A week later, the first of a series of stay-at-home orders was issued.
Our families and businesses have suffered greatly over the past three months. During that time, my office went into emergency response mode. We fielded hundreds of calls from constituents struggling to secure unemployment benefits through the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and we worked daily with local small business owners who were forced to close their doors or limit operations, connecting them with state and federal resources to help keep them afloat. Now it’s time to get back to business.
Phase 4 allows for the safe reopening or expansion of several key business segments - such as health and fitness, movies and theater, museums and zoos, as well as indoor dining at restaurants. Phase 4 also allows for expanded gathering sizes, increasing the limit from 10 in Phase 3, to 50 people or fewer.
In addition, the state has built up its daily testing capabilities, surpassing 30,000 tests in a 24-hour period for the first time. Drive up testing here is continuing at the Interstate Center through an agreement I reached with the Administration; and I would like to thank Gov. Pritzker, his staff, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In addition to expanded business and social activities, we are also looking forward to the reopening of schools for the 2020 fall term, which will begin in late August. Our local districts are racing to open under the strict conditions laid out by the governor, which include facemask requirements for all students and staff. Activities that normally involve gatherings of 50 or more pupils, including school lunchroom times and most sporting activities, will be modified or suspended.
Colleges and universities are also preparing to reopen for on-campus learning with restrictions, including only one person per bedroom in many dormitories, facemask requirements, and suggested staggering of classroom attendance and laboratory session times.
The lifting of more restrictions is very welcome news for our communities, and in my opinion, overdue. Now we need to turn our attention to fully reopening. The problem is that in the governor’s plan that is nowhere in sight. According to the governor, complete reopening of our communities (Phase 5) is not to begin until a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period. That could be more than a year away, and will require hardships to continue.
One of the truths that this coronavirus ordeal has reinforced is that Illinois is a very diverse state. Full reopening of our communities needs to be done on a local basis, based on local data with decisions made by local officials - not on a statewide vaccine mandate.
Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, represents the 105th District in the Illinois General Assembly, where he serves as deputy minority leader.
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