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Some Will County elected officials have been critical of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state’s economy after being partially shut down to combat the novel coronavirus.
The critics’ main concern was the inclusion of collar counties into the northeast region of the state, which includes Cook County. They argued such a design would keep the large numbers of cases and deaths in Chicago from allowing surrounding communities to reopen, even if the outbreak isn’t as severe there.
Pritzker himself conceded this week there is “no way” to draw regional maps that can satisfy all parties.
Will County Board member Ray Tuminello, R-New Lenox, argued this week that more parts of Will County’s economy should be able to open if the county meets the requirements in testing and hospital capacity, even if the northeast region as a whole doesn’t.
“By lumping us in [with Cook County], I believe it will prolong us ever getting to the next stage,” Tuminello said.
New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said in a message to his constituents that Pritzker’s actions have concerned him as well, although he also chastised those using derogatory language in their criticisms of the governor.
He said he intends to meet with neighboring mayors and local health care experts in the coming days to discuss what next steps could be taken to “reopen as much of our community as quickly as we can logically and legally.”
Baldermann emphasized that his efforts are not meant to be political at all but rather will be “factual and focused on medical science.”
“This is not pro-governor, anti-governor or any of that stuff,” he said. “We do have to look out for our business communities.”
As the state has reached Phase 2 of the governor’s plan, state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said he thought more businesses should be allowed to open at this point.
He argued that it doesn’t make sense for big stores such as Walmart to be deemed essential and remain open, while smaller stores that may sell similar products were forced to close. He used the example of needing to buy clothes and said he thought patrons might be safer trying to social distance in a store with far fewer people than typically may be in a Walmart.
Moreover, Batinick added that he is worried about the human toll of an economic shutdown. He fears shorter life expectancy in the country not only because of the virus, but also because of a rise in stress and anxiety as unemployment numbers continue to rise.
“We have to be more targeted about what we’re doing,” he said.