As we all struggle with how to best approach our response to the COVID-19 emergency, I want to thank our citizens for their adherence to the initial order of staying home.
I also want to acknowledge the sacrifice of our essential workers who have carried-on to meet the needs of all. This period of separation has been necessary, and I applaud Gov. JB Pritzker in taking bold action. We must now focus on what is next.
There is now a debate regarding balancing public health and economic health. As long as we are cautious and continue safe practices we do not need to sacrifice one for the other. We must remain vigilant so that our sacrifices will not have been in vain. Now our approach must be more targeted.
I am in contact with small business owners daily. Some are doing well in this new environment, many, unfortunately, are not. The big box stores will survive, but what about local businesses and their employees?
Our local businesses are the life blood of the families that own and operate them. Many are facing financial ruin while still trying to keep their employees on the payroll. We need to find a way to be safe without losing the entrepreneurs that are the heart of our community and who provide jobs, charitable giving, small town service, and who create the sense of place that makes our town, and every town like it, special.
I have urged Gov. Pritzker to work with local leaders on developing the next phase of safety precautions. Not all of our communities are the same. We see the remaining serious threat, but we also realize that our region is less congested and has a higher level of medical resources than most urban areas.
Do not misunderstand my message; safety is our priority, but let us also think creatively. I believe that we could safely open recreational areas such as golf courses and parks. Our garden centers could be opened to promote people working outside in their yards and staying physically and mentally fit.
I think that our small retailers, restaurants, bars and salons, along with fitness facilities could begin to open. We have seen that the big box stores can operate with recommended precautions and still slow the spread of disease. If done with commonsense, our local entrepreneurs can do the same.
We need to look carefully at which types of business could open and still maintain social distancing as well as implementing the precautions recommended by the health professionals.
Of course, I realize that some will have to wait to open, and that will be painful for those owners, but the safety and health of all is the most important goal. What I am recommending is a targeted approach rather than the one-size-fits-all shotgun approach.
Opening will likely require employees and customers alike to wear face masks. It will require limits on the number of customers in a store at any given time. It will require strict adherence to cleaning and sterilizing customer areas and providing shielding for the protection of both employees and customers.
Some businesses will only be able to partially open with limited seating, or by altering seating arrangements. Commonsense can guide us in these practices and together, we can do this. I look forward to the day when our community and our businesses can thrive once again. Our experts can guide us in these practices.
If we do this, together, we can limit the damage taking place now and hasten the recovery.
Greg Jury is mayor of Loves Park.