The April U.S. death toll from COVID-19, 2,000 deaths every day, surpassed American deaths (58,000) incurred during the Vietnam War.
More deaths have been in cities, where populations are denser. Many people in downstate Illinois, declaring, "This is not Chicago," object to Gov. JB Pritzker’s state stay-at-home orders and want openings decided by region.
Both Rep. Andrew Chesney and former representative Jim Sacia want parts of the state reopened. We wonder if they would be complaining if the governor were a Republican, but let’s assume they’re sincere.
Jim Sacia, in a misleading column, dismisses the seriousness of the disease, saying that many people die of diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Two fallacies here. First, the government can do nothing to prevent heart disease or Alzheimer’s. Pritzker cannot issue an order demanding people eat a heart-healthy diet. Second, these diseases cannot be passed to other people by breathing on them. Shelter-at-home could not prevent their spread.
Sacia quotes a couple of doctors whose conclusions have been widely criticized by health professionals. And defending Trump, he says many lives were saved because Trump prevented "all flights from China on Jan. 31."
Actually, Trump prevented non-U.S. citizens from entering the U.S. from China. There were 279 flights from the Chinese mainland (40,000 people) to the U.S. after Jan. 31. Does Sacia ever check his facts?
An Illinois state representative has sued Pritzker, claiming he was "harmed" by his orders. And John Cabello, representative from Machesney Park is also suing. But in Cabello’s Winnebago County, new cases of COVID-19 have increased dramatically, to 392 on April 30 and 10 deaths. Ten of the 13 zip codes in his area have insufficient testing.
A church in Lena also sued, claiming violation of religious rights. A judge ruled against them. A large gathering of people, such as in a church service, might very well increase disease and death.
Are rural areas really safer? The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF.org), which focuses on health issues, isn’t sure, saying "there is increasing concern about the impact of the pandemic in rural America. To the extent that rural areas face an increasing impact, they could experience particular challenges given their relative lack of hospital capacity, older average age, and higher shares of their populations with underlying health conditions."
In rural areas, "both cases and deaths are growing at a faster rate compared to metro counties." Between April 13 and April 27, non-metro counties saw a 125% increase in coronavirus cases, while metro counties saw a 68% increase.
We sympathize with workers who are losing paychecks, with businesses losing money and restaurants that may never reopen. But no one should have to choose between a paycheck and their life. Trump has ordered meatpacking plants to reopen, endangering workers, and insisting, callously, that an executive order under the Defense Production Act would "solve any liability problems."
Gov. Pritzker, on May 5, spoke of reopening Illinois in five phases. Space prevents us from repeating it all, and it’s available on the news. But he is listening to the ideas of governors and mayors all across the state. And he’s divided Illinois into four regions, which may move separately from phase two, which we are in now, into the next phase. The last phase would not occur until a vaccine is available, or a really effective treatment, or a cessation of new cases.
Lawsuits, protests, openings too soon, endanger us all. Let’s be patient. Follow Pritzker’s "Restore Illinois" program. He’s considering regional differences, and he cares about all Illinoisans.
Someday this will be over. Let’s try to make that day come as soon as possible.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at email@example.com.