DuPage mayors calling for letting businesses reopen earlier

  • Steve Chirico

    Steve Chirico

  • Gopal Lalmalani

    Gopal Lalmalani

 
 
Updated 4/29/2020 7:53 PM

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference is joining the chorus of regional organizations asking for a loosening of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's second executive order enforcing stay-at-home restrictions.

The conference president, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, on Wednesday said he is sending a letter to Pritzker "asking him to take a more balanced approach and not a one-size-fits-all approach" to allowing local businesses to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A working group from the conference, led by Naperville and Elmhurst officials, is developing a plan calling to reopen DuPage businesses before the end of May, Chirico said.

The plan is expected to be complete in roughly 10 days and essentially keep health precautions of the stay-at-home order in effect -- requiring masks in indoor public places along with social distancing, sanitizing and hand-washing -- but loosen rules on opening the economy.

A federal plan for gradually reopening businesses calls for waiting to see 14 continuous days with declining new cases of the virus. Pritzker has said he agrees with some elements of that plan.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said "public health recommendations, science and data" will guide the "timing and process" of a gradual business reopening.

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"However, it's important to begin this planning effort now so that when the conditions are safe and appropriate, we know which businesses can operate responsibly while adhering to appropriate social distancing and protective public health guidelines," Cronin said.

Gopal Lalmalani, Oak Brook village president and a cardiologist at Holy Cross and Loretto hospitals in Chicago, said he has treated COVID-19 patients who have developed heart complications. The pandemic, he said, should not be underestimated but is not "as intense or as violent as they were predicting it to be," especially in DuPage County.

"I believe in DuPage, our numbers have plateaued and aren't going up and are relatively small," Lalmalani said. "We are flatter as far as the curve is concerned as compared to the rest of the state."

DuPage health officials on Wednesday reported a total of 2,898 cases of the COVID-19 virus and 145 total deaths. Many of those deaths -- 106, or 73% of the countywide total -- are tied to long-term care facilities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With that in mind, Lalmalani said he believes it is time to reopen DuPage businesses with social distancing, hand-washing and mask requirements in place.

"As long as we take those precautions," he said, "I think we should be ready to open up."

Some epidemiologists, however, have said jurisdictions do not have enough data to base a decision about reopening businesses until their rate of positive tests is at 10% or lower. DuPage has had 2,870 of 15,418 tests come back positive for COVID-19, according to the state, for a rate of roughly 18.6%.

Pritzker, during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, fielded questions about whether businesses in various areas could reopen sooner than his executive order would allow. Pritzker said he plans to examine opportunities for businesses to open in cases when they can allow for social distancing without forcing people to congregate.

But he pushed back against the notion that the new stay-at-home order is a one-size-fits-all approach, citing the opening of state parks in some regions and saying "we, in fact, aren't treating every part of the state the same."

But talk of reopening businesses must be balanced with the desire to keep infection numbers low and Illinois residents healthy and safe, he said.

"We have to be responsible," Pritzker said. "We need just a little while longer here while we move past this peak."

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