Naperville mayor calls for economy to reopen, starting with low-risk businesses

By Jack McCarthy Chronicle Media

Steve Chirico

Steve Chirico says it’s time to start bringing the economy back to life.

“We need to begin opening up our economy on May 1st,” the Naperville mayor and small business owner wrote on his personal Facebook page on April 19.

“We have learned a great deal (about the COVID-19 virus) in the past 12 weeks,” he said. “We have changed our behaviors and educated ourselves. It’s time to apply what we have learned and begin opening the low transmission risk businesses back up … monitor the situation and if we maintain manageable virus levels, open the next level of businesses.”

Chirico said low transmission risk businesses could include golf courses, tennis courts and other outdoor activities.

The comments were not made in any official capacity and the city’s Facebook page and website did not post any of his views. Chirico also owns a flooring business

He stressed — in response to a posted reaction — that he has no authority to reopen Naperville’s economy.

“To be clear, I do not have the authority to make the decision on when to open businesses in Naperville, nor does our city council,” Chirico wrote. “This decision lies with our Governor and whatever decision he makes.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued orders on March 21 shutting down all schools, many businesses and other functions and calling on residents to stay home. The current order expires at months’ end.

Illinois reported 1,551 new cases and 119 deaths on Tuesday for a total of 33,059 cases and 1,468 deaths. Pritzker said that cases in Illinois may not now peak until mid-May.

“I hope the Governor provides us with a modified stay at home order that relaxes the rules so we can start safely opening up our economy,” Chirico wrote.

Pritzker: Changes to stay-at-home order coming, but ‘normal’ a long way away

The posting by Chirico, who called President Donald Trump’s plans to restart the economy “sound,” generated more than 400 comments — both pro and con.

“Thank you Mayor for opening Naperville,” one supporter posted. “As an owner of shopping centers within your community, you have my full support.”

Another wrote: “Yes, let’s get people back to work!.”

Others wrote about shortcomings in testing and data and the danger of rushing back toward normalcy.

“Where is the testing? Where are the tests? That would help to make a more informed and rational decision,” wrote one poster.

“No, no, no. An unknown virus and suddenly 12 weeks of data is enough. First visit the COVID floors anywhere! and talk to medical staff. If you are too afraid to do this then you should not even consider opening yet,” another said.

“I am disappointed to see so many people willing to offer up others as sacrifices for their own desires. Let’s be patient,” said another poster.

Chirico actively engaged many contributors, conceding that any reopening could only be done gradually and that precautions must continue.

“We need to continue to respect the social distancing order, wear personal protective equipment when in public areas, sanitize our surrounding surfaces and continue to pay attention to personal hygiene … especially frequent hand washing,” he wrote.

Chirico also expressed support for people who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 virus.

“To all of the families who have lost a loved one or friend to COVID-19, my heart goes out to you,” he wrote. “To all of you who have gotten sick and recovered or lost your job and your livelihood, stay strong and positive. Better times will come.”