County considers letter to governor about reopening

Some members urge governor to give downstate latitude in determining reopening schedule

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CLINTON — As state protocols regarding the COVID-19 pandemic evolve, local officials find themselves in a quandary between maintaining appropriate social distancing to keep residents and employees safe and the desire to get things moving again.

County board members discussed these factors during a conference call meeting, held on April 23.

Board members discussed the possibility of sending a message to Gov. Pritzker explaining their position on when they believe the state should begin easing restrictions, particularly on businesses.  Board chairman David Newberg read a draft message reflecting the board’s feeling that rural areas of the state should not be treated in the same manner as metro areas.

“We feel the diversity of the state does not fit the one-size-fits-all in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis,” read part of the message.  This sentiment has been a common thread among other municipal leaders in various parts of the country as some states prepare to ease restrictions.

The draft message asked the governor to allow downstate counties to ease restrictions as decided by local officials.  

“Our business owners and workers are losing their livelihoods when the localized risk from the virus seems to be minimal,” Newberg read from message.

The message also asked that recreational facilities be reopened, some of which already happened on the day the board met.  Clinton Lake will soon reopen, Weldon Springs will not.  A phased-in reopening of state parks will begin May 1.  Some additional businesses also will be reclassified as essential and allowed to reopen under certain restrictions.

Newberg said he already had spoken to State Senator Chapin Rose and Rep. Dan Caulkins and that they were aware of county officials’ feelings about beginning reopening.

He said officials in municipalities, such as Clinton, would make their own decisions.

“We’re making our decision for DeWitt County,” Newberg said.

• See the complete story in the Friday, May 1, print and E-Edition of the Clinton Journal.