After a Year of Lockdowns, It is Time to Reopen Illinois

I pray for those who have lost family and friends due to COVID 19. When we first locked down over a year ago, we were told the lockdown was necessary to save lives and to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. At no time did anyone associated with the Federal or State government state that the country, the state, or a specific region must be a zero positivity or that the hospitals must be at zero Covid admissions before we could return to normal. In fact, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health promulgated a 5 phase plan referred to as Restore Illinois. Restore Illinois specifically provides that we will transition to Phase 5 when “[t]esting, tracing and treatment are widely available throughout the state. Either a vaccine is developed to prevent additional spread of COVID-19, a treatment option is readily available that ensures health care capacity is no longer a concern, or there are no new cases over a sustained period.” Everyone may be tested at their local health department or hospital, the health departments have contact tracing in place, the medical community has learned how to treat positive cases over the last year and we are currently administering a vaccine from three different manufacturers.

If we are at Phase 5, and I submit to you we are, what does that mean for the State of Illinois? Well, according to Phase 5 of Restore Illinois, “All sectors of the economy reopen with new health and hygiene practices permanently in place. Large gatherings of all sizes can resume. Public health experts focus on lessons learned and building out the public health infrastructure needed to meet and overcome future challenges.”

I have repeatedly asked IDPH the following: Are we actually in Phase 5? Are there some other unknown criteria we need to meet before the Governor determines we have met Phase 5 criteria and are allowed to open? Unfortunately, I have not received a straightforward answer to these questions. Instead, I was advised that IDPH is having discussions internally regarding how to enter Phase 5 properly and safely. The statement from IDPH prompted another round of questions: Is IDPH going to schedule any internal meetings to discuss how to accomplish entering Phase 5? Will there be public hearings? Is there a timeline on how to accomplish entering Phase 5? Are there discussions to impose some additional criteria?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Governor shut the State down over a year ago, we have a right to know if we have met the Phase 5 requirements and, if not, what is being asked of us before we can fully re-open. 

David Friess (R-Red Bud) represents the 116th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.