Most suburban GOP lawmakers endorse Pritzker's COVID-19 stay-at-home rule

As Illinois hunkers down under a stay-at-home order from Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker to prevent spread of COVID-19, Republican President Donald Trump's messages are different.

The president originally targeted Easter, April 12, as the day Americans could return to some normalcy by packing churches. Trump acknowledged Sunday that was an "aspirational" goal and set April 30 as the date the nation's voluntary shutdown might end.

Pritzker said he recognizes the economic chaos his order is causing for Illinoisans but characterizes the action as a life-or-death choice. Cases of COVID-19 in Illinois rose to 5,057 Monday - with 73 deaths - compared to one case Jan. 24.

Trump had tweeted "the real people want to get back to work ASAP," and he blamed the media and governors for overreacting and devastating the economy. On Sunday, he said "the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks ... during this period it is very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines."

Where do Illinois Republicans stand on the mixed signals about the deadly coronavirus?

House GOP Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady supported Pritzker's executive order issued March 20 that aims to curb the spread of the respiratory infection.

Republican and DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin has appeared with Pritzker at several briefings and said "preserving people's health and safety has to be the No. 1 consideration in an effort to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

"I intend to let the public health recommendations and data drive decision-making, so we make the most informed decisions possible in this unprecedented situation," Cronin said.

Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, however, said last week that Pritzker's order is "too broad" and the state should align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I am 100% totally supportive of what the health care professionals say at the federal level," McSweeney said. "I believe the best information is at the CDC. No one in Washington has ordered a shutdown of the state of Illinois."

Pritzker and state health experts warn COVID-19 cases will continue to multiply unless residents remain in their homes with exceptions for necessary errands.

The CDC and the White House are offering guidelines, not mandates, that recommend avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, for example.

"We're doing what's best for the people in the state of Illinois," Pritzker said. "The CDC has kind of lagged behind the states."

The governor said he follows the advice of scientists and researchers at Illinois' hospitals and universities and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike, a physician.

While the CDC has excellent staff, "their guidance has been a one-size-fits-all" model, Pritzker said.

Republican state Rep. Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee said "the first priority is to make sure the cure does less harm than the initial problem. When I'm out, I see that people are naturally taking precautions to protect themselves, like social distancing."

However, Pritzker scolded Chicagoans seen crowding parks and on trails Thursday.

Is ordering - not just suggesting - people remain in their homes the best course? "I think it's helping in regards to reminding Illinoisans to take the precautions regarding transmission seriously," Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine said. "But it's a delicate balancing act because the economic health of individuals, families, businesses, and the state is vital, as well."

A majority of Republicans who responded to the Daily Herald said it's better to err on the safe side.

"Based on the aggressive nature of this dangerous virus, and how rapidly it appears to be spreading, the governor's order, which I do support, was warranted," state Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles said. DeWitte added he wants the July 1 increase in the minimum wage postponed because he thinks it's hard on businesses.

The economic punch of COVID-19 is visible in Rosemont. "All of our entertainment venues remain dark while we are disinfecting as needed so we will be in a position to reopen when the order expires or is terminated," Mayor and Republican state Rep. Brad Stephens said.

Still, "the village is supporting the efforts to keep as many folks at home" as possible, Stephens said.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove said, "First and foremost, this pandemic is uncharted territory. The extraordinary actions being taken are saving countless lives."

And, state Rep. Dan Ugaste of Geneva said, "right now, I don't believe is the time for people in the legislature to be second-guessing what the governor's done." Rather lawmakers should support the action and "help the people of Illinois as best as we possibly can through this difficult time."

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Dan Ugaste
Brad Stephens
Donald DeWitte
Tom Morrison
David McSweeney
Allen Skillicorn
Jim Oberweis
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