Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Winnebago County leaders aim to open restaurants, churches June 1

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell announced Monday that leaders are working on a plan that would allow some businesses to open early with social distancing restrictions.

The plan is for Winnebago County restaurants, day cares and churches to open by June 1, in Phase 3 of the five-phase Restore Illinois plan.

As-is, however, the state plan does not permit those businesses to reopen until Phase 4. But McNamara said local COVID-19 mitigation has been a success, prompting leaders to move things along quicker.

“Our metrics are where they need to be make reopening earlier than any of us expected,” the mayor said.

McNamara said the plan will be based on suggestions from the Rockford Region Rebounding Working Groups.

“We have more than 140 individuals working on 15 different teams and sub-teams,” the mayor said. “They are working diligently to map out a strategy and a plan to reopen our economy and begin that recovery. ”

The plan will be announced May 26. It will need approval by the Illinois Department of Public Health. If it doesn’t get it and businesses open anyway, owners could face penalties like license suspensions and criminal charges. Municipalities could also be disqualified from federal emergency funds.

But McNamara has no plans to violate the governor’s order. If the proposal doesn’t get IDPH’s blessing, businesses will be expected to follow the state plan as directed.

“Every move that we have made in our community has had the health of our citizens at the very center,” McNamara said. “We have been working closely with Dr. Martell and the entire Winnebago County Health Department.”

Pritzker said earlier this month that Restore Illinois could evolve as regions move through the phases.

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