The McLean County Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind a speedier reopening plan that its leader says is thoughtful, science-driven, and not necessarily in conflict with the governor’s own roadmap.
Currently, Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan lumps McLean and Peoria counties into a region that extends north to the Wisconsin border and includes Rockford. The alternative proposal, led by Peoria officials, seeks to establish an 11-county “Heart of Illinois” subregion that could reopen sooner than the northern portion of the region. McLean County would be part of that subregion.
In a new letter, McLean County Chamber chair Nathan Hinch said his organization supports the Heart of Illinois plan. Hinch said it’s built on a foundation of “solid health progress and community capacity” and largely follows Pritzker’s approach.
“We all recognize the seriousness of the danger posed by COVID-19 and wish to work together towards solutions that help us restore both our health and our economy. We further recognize the long term, negative public health outcomes that stem from a crippled economy. It is time for some balance to be restored, and we feel this plan is the right step for our region to take,” Hinch wrote.
Hinch, an attorney in Bloomington, said Monday it makes sense for business leaders to work in conjunction with public health officials.
“It would do no good to Chamber members, any more than the rest of the community, if we were to open up willy-nilly and cause this pandemic to get a lot worse,” Hinch told WGLT. “That’s not what businesses want, any more than that’s what the community wants.”
Phases vs. Stages
Illinois is now in Phase 2 of the governor’s five-phase reopening plan. The earliest that regions can move into Phase 3 would be the end of May, followed by Phase 4 at the end of June.
The Heart of Illinois plan essentially speeds that up, provided certain public health requirements are met, spread across three new “stages.” Restaurants and bars, for example, would be able to open in the Heart of Illinois subregion earlier than they would be allowed to under the governor’s plan. They’d be able to open right now, while we’re in Phase 2, instead of waiting until Phase 4.
Hinch said business leaders in McLean County have been personally touched by the coronavirus too. He said he’s had loved ones impacted.
“I agree with the governor that this should be done thoughtfully, based on science,” he said. “I think that’s what sets this plan apart from some of the others I’ve seen come out.”
Peoria-area officials still have not received a formal response from the governor’s office on the Heart of Illinois plan. Would the McLean County Chamber want to “go it alone” with the plan, if the governor says no? Hinch said that’s the wrong question to ask.
“I don’t see any downside in engaging with the public about the plan and acknowledging it. The question of, ‘What if the governor says no?’ inherently implies that he has received it, acknowledged it, and then responded negatively. And quite frankly, we’re not there yet. The first step would be to simply acknowledge the plan exists,” Hinch said. “It might not be something he agrees with 100%. And at that point, there’s a dialogue. We can work together on addressing any concerns that come up from either side.”
McLean County has seen 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including six deaths.
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