Rockford's Independent Newspaper

J.B. Pritzker: ‘I won’t jeopardize the safety and health of people here in Illinois’

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will listen to recommendations about what the re-opening of Illinois will look like, even the president’s.

But the Illinois Democrat says it will still be his decision about when the Land of Lincoln gets back to work and into classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ll listen to anybody,” Pritzker said. “But what I won’t do is jeopardize the safety and health of people here in Illinois.”

The governor’s statement comes a day after Donald Trump tweeted that the ultimate decision how and when the states will lift stay-at-home restrictions lies with the president. Potential legal and political battles aside, Pritzker, who says he is also eager for Illinoisans to get back to work, was the one who shut things down in Illinois and will be the one to restart things. But he won’t do it hastily.

“It’s my aim always, every day, to listen to the experts and act upon the best knowledge that’s available,” Pritzker said. “This is a novel coronavirus. There is a reason it was called a novel coronavirus. It never existed before. There’s an awful lot that has to be learned.”

One of those things, Pritzker has said several times during his daily press briefings, is how to ease social-distancing restrictions and contain the virus when treatments for COVID-19 are still being tested and a vaccine could be more than a year away. The president said it’s possible to do both. Pritzker wants to be sure.

“You have to listen to the experts,” Pritzker said. “I am fearful that the decisions that are being made by some or being pushed by some are not based on science. They’re based on a desire for them to re-open their business because we all want to re-open businesses. We all want to go back to work.”

Trump maintains he is listening to experts, namely Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, and will not recommended anything that flouts their opinions.

Fauci, and Trump, have floated a “rolling re-entry,” where certain industries in certain areas of the country could re-open as long as high-risk people are isolated if they show symptoms of  COVID-19. Workers could also be required to wear masks, have their temperatures checked, and practice social distancing.

Pritzker alluded to a similar scenario last week when he said whenever Illinois opens back up, it wouldn’t be all at once. He said the state’s stay-at-home order would likely be modified by May 1, but did not specify what could possibly open and what would remain closed.

“We don’t want more people to pass away,” he said. “We want to make sure we are keeping the infection rate down. “It’s important for us to do what’s best overall for the future of the state of Illinois.

“And to me, right now, we are still in the (first) phase because we don’t have the testing and tracing and treatment that we need. The most important thing we can do right now is stay at home, keep the infection rate down, make sure the hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, and begin to plan for the day when a treatment is available. Then we can do all the testing and tracing when the treatment is available.”

The Illinois Department of Health announced 1,222 new cases of coronavirus disease Tuesday, along with 74 additional deaths, 35 that occurred in Cook County.

A total of 23,247 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 statewide, a number that shows Illinois may be starting to bend the curve. As of March 22, the number of new cases was doubling every two days. Today, the doubling rate was 8.2 days.

Pritzker’s stay-at-home order runs through April 30.

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