Illinois retailer group says society must learn to ‘coexist’ with COVID-19 ahead of stay-at-home extension

(The Center Square) – With Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders set to expire later this week, new orders have yet to be filed. It’s expected the orders will be modified to allow for some retailers considered non-essential to operate.

The governor’s current stay home order he said is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 expires Thursday. Pritzker has yet to officially issue new orders, but has said a modified order to extend through May 30 is coming.

A modified version from unofficial sources was published online, but the governor’s office hasn’t confirmed them. Those orders touch on allowing non-essential retailers to open for curbside, internet and delivery sales.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s Rob Karr said retailers have been working with the governor’s office, but something has to give for businesses on the brink of breaking.

“Because they’re watching an entire life savings, sometimes decades of family work, evaporating,” Karr said. “Many of them are telling me absent some kind of opening, they won’t make it to June 1.”

Karr said as policymakers and industries have worked well on the fly for solutions during the virus outbreak, there is a concern there could be rolling economic shutdowns if public health issues flare-up in the future.

“We as a society, we as businesses, employers, the government, have to learn how to live, how to coexist with COVID-19”

The unofficial draft circulating online also lays out manufacturers may offer masks to employees and enforce social distancing.

Ken Cooley, of ShapeMaster Inc. in Champaign County, said workers were already practicing such measures as they make things for hand sanitizer plants starting up in central Illinois and even components for COVID-19 antibody testing.

One of his chief concerns was a workers’ compensation rule that would have presumed certain frontline workers diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted it on the job.

“That’s the first time you’ve ever seen a flu that would somehow become related to workmen’s comp,” Cooley said. “I think that that is just crazy.”

That rule was withdrawn after being challenged in the courts. Cooley said another concern is other businesses in general that are going bankrupt.

“People are going to lose their life savings if we don’t get Illinois opened back up,” Cooley said. “It’s got to be opened and it’s got to be opened now.”

Cooley said the state and nation have stepped up to increase hospital capacity to take care of people who may get sick.

“Enough said,” Cooley said. “We can take care of the people in this country now so the American people have to be trusted to make wise decisions.”

The governor said the new order will include a requirement that people wear face coverings in places where social distancing can’t be practiced starting May 1. The governor also plans to allow elective surgeries to start again. Pritzker also is reopening some state parks.

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