MOUNT CARMEL — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the outlining of his “Restore Illinois” plan in Tuesday’s press briefing, which would open the state incrementally by regions.

The state, according to Pritzker, will be broken down into four separate regions: Southern Illinois, Northeastern Illinois, North Central Illinois and Central Illinois.

Pritzker’s plan is broken down into five separate phases, each of which mark a lifting of a restriction to offer additional liberties toward normalcy.

As of now all regions of the state are in phase two, which allows for emergency gatherings of 10 or less people, and the state’s current stay-at-home order.

The latest order by Pritzker marked the state’s transition from phase one to phase two, which lifted some restrictions, such as opening golf courses and other recreational activities, though on a restricted, social distanced basis.

To graduate into phase three, regions will have to meet certain benchmarks in association with case total, hospitalizations, etc. The earliest a region could advance into phase three would be May 29, Pritzker said, as data will be examined in 28-day windows.

Once phase three arrives for a region, counties will see the return of barber shops, salons, health and fitness centers, child care, and other retail, non-essential businesses. All of these would come with restrictions of course, and social gatherings will remain with a 10-person limit.

Even upon graduation into phase three, Pritzker strongly urged for businesses to allow for remote work if at all possible — especially for those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

If a region has shown stability in phase three, they can begin a similar process to advance onto phase four.

Qualification for phase four would require regions to exhibit a less than 20% positivity rate of those tested for the virus, no increases by more than 10% in a 14-day period, exhibit no overall increase in hospital admissions over a 28-day period, and maintain availability in ICU, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators.

Applying Pritzker’s necessitated data window, the earliest a region could reach phase four by would be June 25.

Amenities offered in phase four would include bars, dine-in restaurants, schools, retail, and other businesses reconvening with less restrictions, but still limitations to adhere to social distancing. Social gatherings in phase four are limited to just 50 people or less.

As for phase five, that’s when this gets tricky.

In order for phase five to come about, Pritzker says one of two criteria need to be met: a vaccine is developed and made available, or a therapeutic drug has shown tremendous promise as an effective treatment and is widely available.

The criteria for this phase certainly seems to be daunting, but the newly touted drug remdesivir seems to be a move in the right direction for that. Pritzker even specifically mentioned that drug as an option to meet the criteria needed — though said a vaccine is the optimal choice.

Until phase five comes, Pritzker says large-scaled events such as festivals will not occur throughout the state. One would presume this includes sporting events, which attract large crowds. This could potentially affect the fall sporting season, as well as Mount Carmel’s annual Ag Days Festival.

Mayor Judge receiving some special recognition

Prior to detailing his plan, Pritzker spoke in length of various state representatives and local officials who have submitted plans and have been tremendous leaders amid this virus. Not surprisingly, Mount Carmel Mayor Joe Judge was a name Pritzker announced as a leader who’s been an early advocate for a return to elective surgeries.

“Mayor Joe Judge of Mount Carmel was one of the earliest leaders to recommend the expansion of elective surgeries in regions where hospital capacity is available.” Pritzker said.

Behind closed doors Judge has been in constant communication with Pritzker, though it’s been such a fluid situation, Judge has continued to advocate for the community’s needs, and evidently pushing for an allowance for Wabash General Hospital to return to elective surgeries.

All indications appear that Judge was a major driving force in this push, as Wabash General will resume its elective procedures on May 11.

Pritzker addresses critics

It’s no secret that Pritzker has a number of nemeses who’ve held his orders in contempt, either disagreeing with the constitutionality or specifics of his orders.

One of his biggest critics has been 109th District State Representative Darren Bailey, who has filed a suit against Pritzker pertaining his authority to give such an order.

The two have been in a back and forth battle, with Bailey eyeing a lawsuit set to run to the State Supreme Court, and appearing on Fox News to gain traction with supporters. Pritzker has publicly tossed Bailey aside, suggesting that the representative is just trying to make a headline.

Though he didn’t explicitly mention Bailey in Tuesday’s briefing, he appeared to be addressing Bailey at one point in his briefing while commenting on those who have expressed contempt to his order.

“I won’t open the door to overwhelming our hospital systems and possibly 10s of thousands of additional deaths by exposing everyone to the virus today, just because a loud, but tiny minority would like to indulge in that fantasy.” Pritzker said.

Furthermore, he addressed some local politicians who have made their intentions public of not upholding Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

“Elected officails who are encouraging people to gather and break these rules, are in fact encouraging people to get sick,” Pritzker said. “That’s what’s going to happen if you tell the people of your city, your county to just go out and ignore these orders. These are doctors who are suggesting these things, this is science and data. I guess if you don’t believe in science and data as an elected official, you’re not doing the public service that you ought to be doing.”

He asked for local law enforcement and local government to continue to enforce those who violate the order, and mentioned a suspension of ones license as a potential ramification.

State poised with major Nursing Home dilemma

COVID-19’s lethality within the confines of a nursing home has been well documented across the United States.

Somehow, the virus continues to inflict itself onto residents at these homes, suggesting the workers themselves are bringing the virus in and transmitting it to the most vulnerable population.

One reporter in Tuesday’s briefing suggested a statistic that over 50% of Illinois’ death toll affiliated with COVID-19 have been nursing home residents — which is a startling number to observe.

Nearly 3,000 Illinoisans have fallen victim to the virus, though the 60-80 plus aged demographic has accounted for over 90% of the state’s victims.

Now, those in homes may be in serious jeopardy as nursing home workers are set to go on strike on May 8 in pursuit of higher wages.

Pritzker said the state’s done everything in their power to fill voids wherever necessary, but this staffing problem could become insurmountable if a strike takes place.

“We are in fact providing healthcare personnel to a variety of locations where there is a staffing problem.”

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