The Mayor of Lockport Questions the Gov’s Restore Illinois Plan

There has been more than a few local officials across the state who have had questions regarding Gov. Pritzker’s 5-Phase Plan to reopen Illinois. As far as I’ve heard, none of them have been in our area until now.

Mayor Steve Streit of Lockport released a statement via his Facebook page. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with him. I’m just a radio DJ…I have my opinions, but I’m not here to push them on anyone, but I do find it relevant when a local mayor speaks out in this fashion against the governor. Here’s what he has to say, and I’ll let you make your own decisions!

With the Governor’s release of the Restore Illinois plan many of you, including myself, have many serious questions. I am baffled by what appears to be an abandonment of the original strategy to fight Covid19.

The original strategy was: Stay-at-Home to “Flatten the Curve” and give the healthcare system the ability to absorb an influx of critical patients, stockpile adequate protective gear for our first responders and healthcare workers, institute the ability for wide spread and reliable testing (both for the infection and secondly, for anti-bodies showing recovery) followed by a lifting of the Stay-at-Home Order with social distancing protocols, namely “wear a mask and stay six feet apart.” Those most vulnerable (and who make up the vast majority of critical cases) namely the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions, could remain in isolation. If anyone tested positive, an individual would isolate themselves until they either needed to be admitted to a care facility or could be confirmed recovered. Armed with the afore mentioned preparations we would then face the pandemic as humanity has faced every pandemic since the beginning of time – by allowing our bodies to build their own anti-bodies.

The Governor’s 5 Phase Restore Illinois Plan, instituted without legislative approval, seems to abandon this strategy. In the new plan, full recovery only takes place “With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors.” If the rate of infection rises at any time, the Governor and Illinois Department of Health (IDH) could “…determine whether a return to a prior phase may become necessary.” It is unclear to me how we can ever build herd immunity if every time there is a rise in infections (which was always expected) we are returned by the Governor and the IDH to Phase One isolation.

I also question why the McCormick Place emergency medical facility is being dismantled. That was built to absorb the expected surge of patients. Phase 2 is described “Hospitalizations and ICU bed usage continue to increase but are flattening, and hospital capacity remains stable.” Why the Governor would choose to reduce hospital/care capacity by dismantling McCormick after all that was done to prepare to face this pandemic is unclear. It was explained to me this morning that one of the reasons Will County was yoked with Chicago in the Regional recovery was because it enabled Will County to have enough hospital beds. Why we are removing the McCormick facility before the expected surge comes is a question that I cannot get an answer for.

The inconsistencies of what is essential and not essential continue to be an issue. I, along with other mayors, have petitioned the Governor to allow some flexibility within our local economies. The fact that Walmart can be open but not a mom and pop retail establishment that rarely has any more than a few people in it at one time makes little sense. Cannabis and Liquor stores are “essential” but not tobacco or vape shops? Mayors and Councils know the businesses in their communities well enough to help them manage social distance practices and should be given the ability to do so. This permission, though, needs to come from the Governor; otherwise, any business that chooses to open will risk litigation.

Here is a statement written over the weekend by Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Antonio Romanucci. “The risk of opening early outweighs the benefit of limiting liability not only for the municipality but also for any employer who follows the guidelines of the municipality. The prudent course would be to stay closed for another 25 days and limit any further potential spread which could lead to litigation.”

Opening businesses, with the “Flatten the Curve” approach mentioned above and sensible restrictions, was part of the original approach to this fight. The new Phase Plan essentially does away with the June 1 reopening referred to by Romanucci.

Back to the 5 Phase Plan – I have reached out to our local State Senator with these concerns. He informed me that he was “not advised of the Governor’s roll out and has many questions regarding it.” The best response I received was that he was “contemplating a conference call with local mayors and the Governor.”

The Governor’s stated goal of “vanquishing the Coronavirus” is frankly, ridiculous. We can’t even vanquish the common flu for which we already have a vaccine. The current 5 Phase Plan puts all the decision making into the Governor’s hands and unnamed bureaucrats from the Illinois Department of Health.

While I have always taken a pragmatic approach to this job and understand that conditions change and political leaders sometimes have to change direction as new information comes to light and should be given the freedom to do so without being crucified, but the Governor’s autonomous pivot to “vanquish the virus” seems problematic to me. Just as the nation’s Governors didn’t want the President telling them when they could open or close their states, local leaders need to have some autonomy on how to manage their communities. We all submitted to the original Stay-at-Home Order, and its extension to May 31st in good faith that the original plan was, in fact, the plan. But dismantling McCormick Place and telling citizens they can’t make personal choices until the virus is “vanquished” is untenable.

That said, I was in the process of working with Lockport Love and other volunteer groups on how to take care of the most vulnerable folks in our community when the economy eventually re-opens and infections rise. It involves assembling a network of voluntary workers and the building of a data base (absolutely voluntary) of citizens who feel they will need help as the Shelter-in mandate is ended and economy starts to re-open. These volunteers will be able to make grocery runs, cut grass, run errands, take down the garbage cans, etc. for those citizens most vulnerable. I was looking to have this in place by the end of the month when the Shelter-in Order was to be lifted. Though that date seems fuzzy with the new 5 Phase Plan, I believe that we should still ban together as a community and be prepared to help those who need it when Shelter-in is lifted. I will keep you posted on this.

Feel free to email me with further questions or if you would like to volunteer for the outreach program we are putting together. Email: [email protected] Phone: 630-294-0786

Mayor Streit/Lockport