News & Politics

Close to Home, the Debate Over Lifting Virus Restrictions is Simplified

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Living in Central Illinois is very nice and very boring. The next closest town to where I live in Streator is Ottawa at 20 miles. The closest city is Peoria — an hour and a half away. Chicago is 110 miles from where I’m sitting — a universe removed from my home.

In short, things are pretty spread out. Consequently — and not surprisingly — the coronavirus is a threat but hardly a catastrophe. Livingston and the surrounding counties have few cases. LaSalle County has 44 cases with one death. Livingston County has 20 confirmed cases and 1 death.

Local businesses wonder why they can’t reopen with common-sense restrictions. It’s not like huge crowds will descend on downtown Streator or Ottawa to celebrate. These people are proud, independent small business people, and hate the idea of having to take help from anyone. They’d rather sink or swim on their own.

Some counties and towns near Peoria have had enough of being closed. They have submitted a careful, reasonable plan to start reopening on May 1. It’s a 3 stage plan, it’s well thought out and they have submitted it in a letter to Governor J.B. Pritzker for approval.

NBC25:

Multiple elected officials in central Illinois have signed a letter to Governor JB Pritzker imploring him to consider an attached three-phase plan to reopen local businesses and economies.

The plan includes signatures from the mayors of East Peoria and Morton, the board chairs of Tazewell and Woodford counties, and Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower.

Absent from the letter is a signature from Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis.

Mayor Ardis is concerned that there is no medical or scientific evidence to buttress their case.

“Part of what the city manager’s team, the economic — Chris Setti from GPEDC, and several of us that are trying to craft something is the importance of getting that medical metric in there,” he said. “We just want to get that part of it right, so it makes sense, so the governor is comfortable with it, and so we can get this area open back up.”

There is going to be guesswork and models. But if the mayor is looking for “medical metrics” he won’t find much. An entire world coming out of a pandemic has never been tried before. We’re all going to be learning as we go along.

The plan submitted to Pritzker calls for opening the counties up in three phases.

The first phase would begin May 1, giving nonessential businesses the option of reopening with social distancing guidelines maintained.

Phase two would begin June 1 – giving restaurants, bars and bakeries the option of reopening up to 75% of their normal occupancy. Groups of more than 50 people would be avoided.

Phase three would start July 3 and would open up large venues and social gatherings such as weddings and funerals under limited social distancing guidelines.

The letter to the governor gives concern that the extension to his stay-at-home order would lead to a series of impassable fiscal barriers for many.

These little towns and lightly populated counties don’t have access to credit sources like larger governmental entities. The few tens of thousands of dollars in their budgets can’t be made up without going into debt. And with no end in sight to the shutdown, who’s going to loan them the money?

This unprecedented situation calls for caution. But there’s no use waiting for deaths from the coronavirus to stop or even slow to a trickle. This is especially true in rural America. We are going to have to learn to live with this accursed bug and that includes going back to living our lives as social animals. It may or may not be “too soon.” History will decide that. But when common sense is abandoned out of political fear of the consequences of deaths from disease, we lose an essential element of our humanity; our ability to live as we choose and not as it’s dictated to us by politicians.

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