Chorus grows for Pritzker to reduce COVID restrictions ‘sooner rather than later’

(The Center Square) – There’s a growing chorus in Illinois urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to provide the hospitality sector some clarity and certainty about when things will open more.

Pritzker Wednesday didn’t give specifics about when he would relax COVID-19 mitigation.

“I’m terrifically pleased with the direction of things and if it keeps going that way we’ll be able to open more and more and finally get past this pandemic,” Pritzker said.

The hospitality sector has been shut down for nearly a full year because of capacity limits put in place by rolling executive orders from the governor he said was meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Thursday, Comptroller Susana Mendoza told a virtual Senate committee the state needs to show plans to open more sooner, rather than later.

“If we are on the right track in our fight to contain COVID-19 then we would like to at the appropriate pace and with the appropriate safeguards allow the state to start planning for conventions to come back to the state of Illinois,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza noted taxes from the hospitality sector are down to a level that makes any kind of recovery difficult, and it’s difficult to pay the state’s bills with diminished revenue.

State Sen. Suzy Glowiack Hilton, D-Western Springs, said the difference of Phase 4 with a cap of 50 people and Phase 5 with no restrictions is too great.

“It’s all or small and we need an in-between piece to kind of ramp us up and plan and give us some predictability for the folks who really need it because we’ve got to get our people back to work,” Glowiack Hilston said.

The leisure and hospitality sector saw an employment drop of more than 31% over the past year. That’s the largest of all employment sectors.

A labor leader told the committee Thursday they are looking for further conversations with the Pritzker administration to open things up more, but those conversations have yet to take place.

State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said meetings expected in about 10 days aren’t going to cut it compared to other states.

“That is the same week that Connecticut, Nevada and New York are actually already going to be implementing their 100-150 capacity, but we’re still in these internal conversations,” Feigenholtz said.

Texas is set to open up 100% March 10.

The Illinois hospitality sector has seen a massive decline in revenue over the past year and the industry warns of long-term consequences for the state if clarity isn’t provided soon.

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