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Facing Backlash From Downstate And Beyond, Pritzker Defends Reopening Plan: ‘I Want This To End Just As Much As You Do’

"One-hundred-ninety-two Illinoisans lost their lives to this virus in the past 24 hours," Pritzker said. "How is that not real to you?"

Former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica spoke at the Open Illinois rally Friday.
Bob Chiarito/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — On the deadliest day yet in Illinois’ coronavirus battle, Gov. JB Pritzker said Reopen Illinois Now proponents are “ignoring science” and pandering to people who have been devastated economically by the virus.

In defiance of the state’s stay at home order, downstate Madison County is declaring itself “back open for business” on Wednesday, Fox reported. In downstate Quincy, a bar reopened this week with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. The governor has also faced lawsuits from church leaders and lawmakers over the stay at home order.

He said implications that he is somehow enjoying this lockdown are off base.

“COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and stolen our sense of normalcy and stability,” Pritzker said. “I want this to end just as much as you do.”

Pritzker said opening the state too soon would lead to a surge in coronavirus cases, especially since infections continue to spread: 1,677 new cases were reported Wednesday and 192 people died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the state reported.

“I know leaders across the state are struggling with these choices, and I have sympathy for them in that struggle,” Pritzker said. “But what I don’t have sympathy for is those so intent on disregarding science and logic, so afraid to tell their constituents what they may not want to hear, that they put more people’s lives at risk. … You weren’t elected to do what’s easy. You were elected to do what’s right.”

Pritzker reiterated threats to businesses and communities that ignore the stay at home order, saying “there will be consequences” — including withholding FEMA funds to counties that disregard state public health guidance.

Businesses can lose their licenses from the state if they reopen, as well, Pritzker said.

Several downstate lawmakers say Pritzker’s plan is too much of a “one size fits all” approach.

“Our numbers are just far better than they are up north,” Adams County Board Chairman Kent Snider told WGEM. “We feel like we’re being punished because we’re all in this together, lumped with the bigger cities up north. We want to be on our own field.”

Pritzker has also been challenged over the length of time between phases, with some lawmakers saying 28 days is too long and 14 days would be adequate.

Pritzker rejected that assessment Wednesday, saying each region needs to have the number of cases and hospitalizations either stable or declining over a sustained period.

Previously, he said the 28-day period is also key because people do not become sick or show symptoms of coronavirus right away. The state is making many changes at the start of each new phase, he said, and it needs to have time to monitor how those changes affect the spread of COVID-19 to ensure the breakout doesn’t flare up again.

“One-hundred-ninety-two Illinoisans lost their lives to this virus in the past 24 hours,” Pritzker said. “How is that not real to you? … This pandemic is not over. And to pretend otherwise in a misguided attempt to reclaim what we’ve lost will only make this last longer.”

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