McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre has called a special meeting for May 28 to consider adopting a plan to reopen much of the county's economy on a faster timeline than the one Gov. JB Pritzker has implemented.
The board is expected to vote on the Restore Heart of Illinois plan. That’s an effort Peoria County officials proposed last week, but it stalled locally after Pritzker threatened to withhold federal reimbursements if earlier openings led to COVID-19 outbreaks and additional costs.
Pritzker later discouraged those efforts again by stating businesses that defy stay-at-home orders could face misdemeanor charges.
McIntyre said he intends to support the plan but wants to give county health officials the opportunity to express their thoughts.
“We’ll let our health department review it some more and the Board of Health, but we feel like it’s based on good medical metrics and facts,” McIntyre said. “I’d at least like have an opportunity for the board to weigh in on this.”
The McLean County Board of Health plans to discuss reopening plans at its meeting on Thursday.
When McIntyre proposed the county ask the governor to endorse the Restore Heart of Illinois plan last week, the County Board’s Executive Committee offered mixed reviews. That was before Pritzker said he would pull funding for counties that defied the order.
County Board member Chuck Erickson later proposed the county adopt the plan, but that didn’t leave enough time to get it on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting. He had initially proposed the county begin to reopen on May 23, but said he’d be willing to align with the subregion plan to win more support and be closer to the governor’s reopening timeline.
“I don’t think the governor technically is going to be really upset with us if we are just a step ahead of him,” Erickson said last week. “If we are eight steps ahead of him, maybe he says, ‘You can’t do that.’”
Creators of the 11-county subregion plan said it better reflects the scope of the pandemic in their communities, in part because it separates their data from coronavirus hot spots, including Rock Island and Rockford.
McLean County has had 187 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and about 40% of those are active cases. Six people have died. Three were residents of the Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.
McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said during a recent media briefing deciding when and how to reopen is a difficult balancing act between economics and public safety.
“As a community, how can we do this in a way that’s safe but also respect that we’re seeing economic hardships due to this pandemic that is unprecedented,” McKnight said.
McIntyre said he expects it to be a close vote. He said at least seven members of the board support that measure. It requires one-third of the board’s members to call for a special meeting.
He said board members recognize they could be putting some federal money in jeopardy if they jump ahead of the Restore Illinois plan.
"There's going to be a lot of contributing factors on how people will vote," McIntyre said. "And there may be even more. Things change by the hour sometimes."
McLean County Administrator Camille Rodriguez said the county hasn't received any federal reimbursements yet and the county is still tabulating its COVID-19-related costs.
Under Pritzker’s plan, the North-Central region which includes McLean County is on target to move to Phase 3 by the end of the month, enabling manufacturing, offices, retail stores, barbershops and salons to open with capacity restrictions.
The County Board holds its regular monthly meeting tonight. The board will consider sending a letter to state officials urging them to keep the mobile COVID-19 testing site at the McLean County Fairgrounds in Bloomington. It is scheduled to close on Friday.
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