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Republicans chafe at Pritzker’s stay-at-home rules — seek loosening with lengthening

The governor is expected to extend his order again this week, but this time statehouse Republicans want changes, calling for state parks to reopen, hospitals to start performing elective procedures and some businesses to reopen.

State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria.
State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria.
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SPRINGFIELD — With businesses closed, people out of work and many residents postponing needed medical procedures, Illinois Republicans on Wednesday called for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ease his stay-at-home order, which is set to expire April 30.

“The safe opening, or reopening, of our state economy is the important work that now faces us,” state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said during a news conference on Zoom. “And we believe that there should be allowances made for businesses to reopen, as long as they can do so safely.”

The governor is expected to extend his order again this week, but this time statehouse Republicans want changes, calling for state parks to reopen, hospitals to start performing elective procedures and some businesses to reopen.

At his regular daily briefing Wednesday in Chicago, Pritzker said the stay-at-home order could be amended based on new information that has come in. He cited experts’ belief that wearing masks and having fewer people in a confined space helps slow the spread.

“We are all looking at that,” the governor said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives his daily update on the coronavirus situation on April 13, 2020.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives his daily update on the coronavirus situation on April 13, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

But Republicans want more than that.

With many states saying they plan to ease social distancing restrictions starting next week, Pritzker is being pressured by some to do the same in Illinois. House Republicans called for a staggered easing of restrictions that would allow for some businesses to reopen, while following social distancing guidelines.

Those new social-distancing measures for businesses could require businesses to have all their employees wear masks and to place stricter occupancy limits on brick and mortar stores, Republican lawmakers said during their online news conference.

Spain said he wants exemptions from Pritzer’s order for some businesses such as car dealerships, golf courses, barbershops, hair salons and clothing stores.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said she wants the state to end its recommendation that hospitals forgo elective procedures.

Anticipating a surge of COVID-19 patients, hospitals around the state canceled outpatient care and elective procedures. While patients have filled hospital beds in Chicago, in some parts of Downstate Illinois, hospitals are seeing fewer patients than normal. The cancellation of elective procedures has hurt hospitals financially and has caused many residents to delay needed medical exams such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna
State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna
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“Let me be clear, we are not saying hospitals and health care facilities should resume — all of them — should resume normal operations on midnight May 1,” McCombie said.

But some hospitals should begin to start doing elective procedures again, she said. And some should “slowly return to normal operations.”

Illinois was among the first states to shut down its state parks, to the dismay of many Downstate residents.

State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, said that has particularly hurt southern Illinois – for no good reason.

“Campsites are a great place to do social distancing because they’re remote,” Severin said. “Hiking trails, they’re remote. Horse and ATV trails, they’re definitely remote. So there’s activities that can be enjoyed by Illinoisans while maintaining the social distancing.”

State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton.
State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton.
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The governor has kept his cards close to his vest about any extensions or changes to his stay-at-home order.

While Pritzker did say that “tweaks” could be coming to his guidelines, he also said it is unlikely the state’s economy will return to normal until there is more testing, the ability to trace positive cases and more personal protective equipment for medical workers.

“Well, I think I foreshadowed for everybody, and I think it’s widely understood that the things you need in order to open the economy are things that we don’t quite yet have in place — nor does any state,” Pritzker said.