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Pritzker joins team of Midwestern governors to plan how to reopen economy and ensure ‘things will go back to normal’

Pritzker is working “in close coordination” with the governors of six neighboring states to get the regional economy back on its feet as the coronavirus curve appears to bend.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a Monday news conference.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a Monday news conference.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and six other Midwestern governors have formed a coalition working “in close coordination” to determine how to ease the regional economy back into motion from the coronavirus shutdown.

Pritzker announced the area partnership Thursday with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region,” the governors said in a joint statement.

“We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet.”

The group — comprised mostly of Democrats, plus the Republicans DeWine and Holcomb — said they’re focusing on four main factors to determine when to reopen the economy: sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, enhanced testing and tracing ability, health care capacity to handle “resurgence,” and best practices for workplace social distancing.

“This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time,” they said. “But close coordination will ensure we get this right. Over time, people will go back to work, restaurants will reopen, and things will go back to normal.”

They touted “a fact-based, data-driven approach” that “prioritizes our workers’ health.”

Pritzker has largely derided President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, slamming the administration’s failure to distribute medical supplies as well as the president’s past stated goal of “reopening the country” in time for Easter.

Illinois is under a stay-at-home order through April 30, though Pritzker has signaled that could soon be extended. Evers on Thursday extended Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order through May 26.

Indiana’s order is in effect through April 20, while Michigan’s is effective through the end of the month. Ohio’s lasts through May 1, and Minnesota’s through May 3. Kentucky is under a less stringent “healthy at home” directive from Beshear that doesn’t have an expiration date.

The formation of the coalition comes just over a week after Wisconsin controversially went forward with its primary election despite the shutdown, over Evers’ objections. DeWine pulled the plug on Ohio’s primary late last month, with a mail-in election running through April 28.

Illinois’ primary took place March 17, just days after Pritzker’s stay-at-home order went into effect. The freshman Democrat has insisted he didn’t have the constitutional authority to call off the election.

The billionaire Illinois governor has traded barbs with Trump on Twitter, where the president has also lashed out at Whitmer, who has been similarly critical of the federal response.

As for a set of recommended guidelines issued by the White House for states to follow in reopening, Pritzker said, “We’re using the criteria that are set out here in Illinois, what’s best for the people of Illinois.”