Editorial: Suburbs dealing with COVID-19 are in this together

  • The National Guard runs a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Chicago Prime Outlets in Aurora.

      The National Guard runs a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Chicago Prime Outlets in Aurora. Rick West | Staff Photographer/April 23

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted5/14/2020 1:00 AM

Some elected officials in DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties want to secede from the Chicago area for purposes of dealing with the novel coronavirus.

They want to reopen businesses at a faster pace, rather than waiting for the region to meet the parameters set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health for taking the next steps toward loosening restrictions on public gatherings.


They're eager to jump-start economies at a time when local COVID-19 case numbers pale next to Cook County and Chicago, and who can blame them? Naperville, to name one government, already points to an $18 million pandemic-driven budget gap as sales taxes, food and beverage taxes, motor fuel taxes and other revenue sources evaporate.

The DuPage, Kane and McHenry county elected officials are calling on Pritzker to remove the areas from the Northeast region under the Restore Illinois plan, which also includes Cook, Grundy, Lake, Kankakee, Kendall and Will counties. The nine counties will move forward as a block toward more openness or back into a tighter lockdown depending on the percentage of tests that are positive for coronavirus, hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients, and available hospital rooms and resources.

Our hearts ache for the many who've lost livelihoods and for our local businesses facing ruin during this time. Our suburbs, we fear, will be changed forever.

Unfortunately, our desire for rescue from economic downfall doesn't necessarily mesh with public safety. COVID-19 doesn't respect borders, and no Chicago-area county or town can wall itself off from others.

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It's a misconception to think the collar counties are unfairly caught up in Cook County's COVID-19 orbit.

DuPage County's Elmhurst, with 179 confirmed cases, is right next door to Cook County's Northlake, with 149 confirmed cases or Hillside with 104 cases.

Kane County includes Aurora, with 1,660 cases, and Elgin, with 794, and an infection rate­ -- positive results out of total tests performed ­-- of 24%, higher than either Chicago or suburban Cook County.

McHenry County, with 1,049 positive cases, might make a more plausible case for leaving the Northeast region, but the prospect still is fraught.

Imagine, for a minute, some suburbs opening their hair salons, malls, restaurants, bars and offices before others do. Is it wise to attract customers and employees from other parts of the region, who might bring COVID-19 with them, or be exposed and carry it back home?

Wednesday's case counts are a sobering reminder against moving too quickly to reopen.

Statewide, 192 people died in one day, the highest since the outbreak began. Fifty-two of them died in Chicago and 88 in suburban Cook County, but so did 13 in DuPage County, nine in Lake County, six in McHenry County, six in Kane County and four in Will County. We in the Chicago region are still in the trenches. All of us.

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