Downstate lawmaker forms committee to study ways to open economy

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker tours Hall C Unit 1 of the COVID-19 alternate site at McCormick Place in Chicago on Friday, April 3, 2020. Hall C is planned to have 500 beds. In the background is Christina Bratis, clinical chief of staff of the facility. — Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

CHICAGO – A downstate lawmaker has formed a committee to look into opening up Illinois’ economy.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to extend the state’s emergency stay-at-home order through May 30 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. The modified order will allow some businesses to reopen, but some will remain closed.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the state should open back up on a regional basis and has formed a committee made up of business owners and legislators to provide input on how to open things up safely.

“Committee members will talk to other folks in the area and find out what the sense is and how you move forward,” Halbrook said. “Do we embrace the idea of creating a plan to reopen and what does that begin to look like?”

Halbrook noted the Champaign EMS region has a daily infection rate that is more than 80 percent lower than the Cook County infection rate.

“One-size-fits-all is not a good plan,” he said. “My home county is 29 people per square mile. The city (of Chicago) is over ten thousand people per square mile.”

Halbrook said Monday’s ruling in Clay County, which issued a restraining order against the governor for extending the stay-at-home order helps the effort.

“What the governor is doing with these executive orders shreds the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and that’s what we have been talking about all along,” Halbrook said.

Pritzker has said he wants to reopen the state’s economy just as much as everyone else, but the governor said he would only do so when it was safe. Pritzker has also said COVID-19 is a problem in every part of the state, including rural areas with a limited number of hospital beds.

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