Madison County votes to defy Pritzker, allow businesses to reopen

Chronicle Media and Capitol News Illinois

Kurt Prenzler

Madison County Board of Health voted 26-2 on May 12, to allow businesses and places of worship to reopen starting Wednesday, which takes place in four phases.

“This bi-partisan resolution expresses the confidence the Board of Health has in businesses to open in a safe and reasonable manner,” Republican Chairman Kurt Prenzler said.

Prenzler said by passing the resolution it’s giving business owners and residents a choice — a choice in freedom.

“We want to balance the goals of public health, our economy and jobs and our constitutional rights,” he said. “We understand these are hard times, but we also understand there is a need to support the financial health of our communities, the business owners and their families.”

The  full resolution recommends guidelines for what the county is calling a responsible reopening of businesses, organizations and churches. The resolution makes no comment or opinion on insurability or licensure of any individual or business.

The vote on Tuesday came on the same day Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said he would consider withholding federal pass-through funds to counties ignoring his stay-at-home order and said it “would be best” for the General Assembly to meet before the end of May to take up key state business.


(Pritzker warns of ‘consequences’ for businesses, counties opening early)

When asked in his daily COVID-19 briefing if the state would consider withholding federal aid to counties reopening early, Pritzker said, “we would consider that.”

“The state already provides a lot of support for cities and counties,” he said. “And so, I would just suggest that there are a number of enforcement mechanisms that are available to us, and I don’t want to utilize those — I have asked people to do the right thing and I want to point out that the vast majority of people in Illinois have been doing the right thing and I’m so very proud of that.”

Pritzker said those disobeying his orders are “outliers” who are “not following science and data,” but rather they are “listening to partisan rhetoric” and “following their own instincts, but no science.”

Per Pritzker’s plan, the state is divided into four regions, and the earliest any region can move to the next phase of reopening is May 29.

Madison’s move also comes at a time when the county — along with neighboring Metro East counties  — has some of the state’s highest number of COVID-19 cases in its nursing homes and longterm care facility.   The area is considered a hot spot still for the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, May 12, Madison County had a total of 445 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Only St. Clair with more than 770 has more cases among the six-county Metro East region.

The governor also on Tuesday said he has spoken to all four of the legislative leaders about getting the General Assembly back in session to address state business, especially adopting a budget plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. He did not say he would call a special session, however, stating that if he did, it “does not mean they will all show up.”