Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced his intention to extend his executive order requiring citizens of Illinois to shelter in place until May 30. I certainly appreciate Governor Pritzker's focus on the well-being of Illinois, and I share his concern for the health of our citizens. That said, his unilateral decision to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges posed by the coronavirus ignores the unique geography and population distribution of our state. Since his announcement, I have received countless calls, e-mails, and text messages from my constituents pleading with me to ask Governor Pritzker to consider the long-term damage he is doing to our state with what is quickly becoming one of the most oppressive orders in the country. While I agree that we must take substantial steps to protect the most vulnerable populations of Illinois right now, we cannot destroy the future of the state in the process.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, around 40 of Illinois' 102 counties are reporting coronavirus infections in the single digits, with an additional half a dozen counties actually reporting zero cases. Medical systems in these areas are not being stressed, and there are no indicators whatsoever that we will see a sudden surge of viral activity in much of the state.
We all know the economic costs of this lock-down are severe. But there are significant social costs as well, and these costs are very concerning. Disturbing data is emerging every day that, during the lock-down, indicates significant increases in domestic violence, drug and alcohol use, and child abuse. An entire generation of school-age children have already lost meaningful classroom experiences, and some are already predicting that schools may not open in the fall. No matter how well-intended his motivations may be, Governor Pritzker's orders have already had unintended consequences for the people of Illinois.
We must immediately rethink our approach to how we are dealing with the coronavirus. I am calling upon Gov. J.B. Pritzker to immediately reshape his order to embrace a regional approach, along with a phased re-opening. We can use the significant data we have already collected to target counties and regions of Illinois that are safe to re-open, and we can do this safely and responsibly, and in a manner that minimizes the spread of the virus. Additional protections should be in place for the most vulnerable populations and for large gatherings. Guidance and recommendations should be provided to employers and others, who should adopt safeguards tailored to their industry or sector; again, recognizing that some are more vulnerable than others. Further, tests for antibodies should be widely made available, as widespread testing is necessary as we rebuild public confidence in their safety.
While I respect Governor Pritzker's intent with his unilateral decision to extend the lock-down of Illinois until May 30, I think he misses the mark with his one-size-fits-all approach. By using data to guide decisions, by acknowledging the regional differences in the coronavirus threat to the people of Illinois, and by allowing flexibility and fluidity moving forward, Governor Pritzker could enact a more strategic approach that better protects the health of our people and the future of our state.
Barickman, of Bloomington, represents the 53rd District in the Illinois Senate.
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