1. How do we best reopen when we know there will not be a vaccine for 12-18 months, a second wave is expected in the fall, and cases are currently on the rise in our state?
The best way to reopen is in a phased approach, driven by public health metrics and standards vs. local politics. Those metrics, or standards, need to be consistent across the state. Some sections (or regions) of the state may advance through the various phases faster than others. However, that progression should be based on health standards that are consistent, such as sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, enhanced ability to test and trace, sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence, and best practices for social distancing in the workplace.
2. Why are you against a city-by-city or county-by-county reopening approach?
Consistent public health metrics across the state are important to keep Winnebago County citizens safe. Here's why: Like other large metro counties, 20% of our residents work outside the county and live here while 20% of our community's workforce comes from outside county lines and return home in the evening. We are not Chicago but we are also not Dixon, Montana. We are very interconnected with Chicago Metro and suburbs as well as southern Wisconsin. City, county, and even regional lines are political and government boundaries, not real public health and economic boundaries.
3. How important is citizen leadership in the fight against COVID-19?
Critical. One asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic person can infect multiple people who, in-turn, unknowingly infect multiple people. This is no way out of this public health and subsequent economic crisis without individuals deeply understanding and executing on their important role in this effort. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, etc. There is no reopening plan I have seen that doesn't rely heavily on citizen buy-in in a significant manner. This is one area where there should be unified support across political parties, business sectors, etc. This is critical to business, schools, and society being able to reopen faster and more robustly.
4. When will things be back to normal?
We are not going back to the way things were. We need to go forward to a new normal. Not everything will change but a lot of things will, including how we approach community health, emergency preparedness, aspects of education, and numerous business sectors, etc.
5. How has this impacted the Winnebago County Government budget?
In the short-term, a lot. We are projecting a $6.58 million loss of tax and fee revenue between now and the end of our fiscal year, September 30, 2020. Special thanks to a large number of Winnebago County elected and appointed officials who co-signed a letter to our Federal Delegation in Washington requesting assistance in the next stimulus package. This package, among other things, will be aimed at helping local governments ensure direct, critical services are maintained.
6. What are your thoughts on the Illinois General Assembly?
State leaders need to call the Illinois General Assembly back into session. Congress is in session. Local governments are in session. Why not Springfield? Respectfully, we need the governor or speaker of the House to make this call.
7. How did you feel about Javon Bea's decision to stop accepting Medicaid patients at MercyHealth during a once in a hundred-year pandemic?
There is a time and place for Medicaid reform. It needs fixing. But our most vulnerable citizens are being held hostage in a price negotiation with the state in the middle of a global health crisis. Shrewd business practices have limits, like price gouging on N95 masks, hand sanitizer, or staple food products when people may need them most.
8. What are your thoughts on how our politics is impacting the COVID-19 response?
This quote best sums it up: “The pandemic has shown that the old political rubrics of free market vs. big government, common good vs. individual liberty, states' rights vs. federal action, left vs. right, globalism vs. nationalism provide a weak framework for making decisions during these tough times.” - Erika Harold, former AG candidate
9. Are the "experts" always right?
No. But ignoring or dismissing the experts as the problem or the enemy doesn't solve anything. Science and data is still our best tool in fighting this battle. Everyone is running to catch-up to COVID-19. Five to six months ago, this particular virus didn't exist. More testing is important. The data from increased testing can be applied to go forward strategies.
10. Can we improve upon on the recently released Executive Order from the Governor's Office?
Yes. And although it is a 30-day Order, it can be amended at any time as gaps are identified or circumstances change. One example is the list of parks and preserves open to the public was amended to now include Rock Cut State Park.
Let’s continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands regularly, etc. The more we flatten the curve the stronger the argument for reopening more business operations through further revisions of the order.
Together, we will get through this.
Frank Haney is chairman of the Winnebago County Board.