With the state’s stay-at-home order due to expire next week, several House Republicans on Wednesday outlined ideas for reopening the state, including opening more retail outlets and allowing some hospitals to resume some elective procedures.
A big part of their message, though, was Gov. JB Pritzker should consult with legislators of both parties in determining what the state should do to loosen restrictions of the stay-at-home order. Pritzker has said he anticipates making some changes to it, but has also cautioned those changes won’t be expansive.
Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria said Pritzker’s leadership and guidance during the crisis is welcome, "but the legislature is also interested in offering guidance to the executive branch and certainly to the administration where we see lots of decisions being made. Our guidance is how can we constructively, safely, responsibly resume an economic recovery that really is critical to where we go next."
Spain said a number of businesses that are closed because they are deemed non-essential should be allowed to reopen if they can do so safely. His list includes clothing and shoe stores, barbers and hair salons, dog grooming services, golf courses and others.
Allowing smaller businesses to reopen could improve safety, Spain said, because they would attract fewer customers at one time. Maintaining social distancing is more difficult in big box stores which may attract more customers because there are no other options, he said.
Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield said employees of stores and restaurants should be required to wear face coverings while inside the establishments. He also said vulnerable senior citizens should continue to be required to stay at home and volunteers should be recruited in communities to assist them with food deliveries and other help they may need to remain in their homes.
"We know there’s no easy answers as the situation seems to change daily," Batinick said. "But a commonsense approach to rebalancing restrictions is the best step forward. The more we show commonsense from the government, the more there’s going to be buy-in by the public."
Savanna Rep. Tony McCombie said hospitals should be allowed to resume elective procedures and preventative testing if they have lo COVID-19 caseloads, have sufficient protective equipment and have sufficient bed capacity. Many hospitals stopped performing elective procedures even though that is a significant source of revenue for them. She also said that delaying procedures like breast exams or colonoscopies could end up causing more problems in the future.
"People are afraid of going to the hospital. They should go and seek care," McCombie said. "We must stop what is turning into a possible additional health care crisis."
Rep. Dave Severin of Benton said the governor should allow state parks and recreation areas to reopen both for the health of Illinois residents and to boost the economy of southern Illinois. He said he does not think people will flock to those facilities in such numbers that they will violate social distancing requirements.
Pritzker has not specified what he might do to ease the stay-at-home order. Asked if a lawsuit could be filed if Pritzker doesn’t go far enough, Spain said that won’t happen.
"I don’t see a legal challenge as an appropriate response right now," he said. "We stand ready to work as partners."
During his daily briefing on the pandemic, Pritzker was asked about the Republicans’ ideas and other proposals for reopening the state. Pritzker said he is considering input from a wide variety of sources, but offered no specifics about what he plans to do.
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