Lawmaker demands COVID-19 contact tracing data from Pritzker administration

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said bars and restaurants are among the places where people are contracting COVID-19 and that’s why he’s targeting them throughout the state.

One state lawmaker wants to see the raw data.

State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, used to own a restaurant and said businesses in his district are upset at possibly having prohibition on indoor service. While Region 3 that includes Springfield isn’t under stricter prohibitions, there are still limits to how many can be served inside an establishment.

“I was talking to an operator yesterday who has two well-established restaurants and he’s down at one of them [by] 40 percent and the other one 30 percent down, and it is tough to make it on that,” Murphy said.

Region 3, along with other regions of the state, are inching closer to the COVID-19 positivity threshold the governor has used to unilaterally prohibit bars and restaurants from indoor service in four other regions of the state. Region 7 has had the stricter mitigations implemented, then relaxed, and Friday they’ll be prohibited by the governor from having indoor service.

Murphy said he’s sending a letter demanding the governor give up all the data behind the decision, “asking for them to share their data on contact tracing as why restaurants and bars are subject to this.”

“They claim that they have a valid reason to do this,” Murphy said. “Well, show us the data.”

Late Wednesday, the Illinois Restaurant Association said it “cannot support the COVID-19 mitigation plan presented by Gov. Pritzker’s office that ceases dine-in operations at restaurants across the state of Illinois.”

“We also have serious concerns over the consistency of the data the state is using to drive these devastating decisions to close our industry,” Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia said. “By contrast, DuPage County has provided detailed statistics indicating that restaurants are linked to just 6% of outbreaks over the past seven months – yet their indoor dining was shut down. As the science surrounding COVID-19 has evolved, so must the metrics for mitigation.”

The association emphasized that it is not advocating that operators disobey executive orders, despite fact that the association does not support the mitigation measures.

The association said Pritzker should fight for more federal funds for impacted businesses, something Murphy said would help. But he said: “Programs and assistance isn’t the answer.”

“We have to figure out how to get back to normalcy,” Murphy said.

Murphy acknowledged consumer confidence must increase and urged people to do a better job of wearing face coverings and keeping their distance to work at keeping the number of COVID-19 cases from increasing.

The association said if the governor moves forward with prohibiting bars and restaurants from providing indoor service because of increasing COVID-19 numbers, more than 100,000 jobs will be lost.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported another 47,000 first time unemployment filers, about level with the week before. Over the year in September, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported nearly 131,000 fewer jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector.

“Conservative estimates indicate that at least 20 percent of restaurants will be forced to close their doors permanently,” Toia said if the governor continues with prohibiting indoor service. “This means 120,000 jobs in Illinois, gone. We cannot allow this to happen. Closing restaurants down now means closing them for good!”

Murphy said the months-old problems of people not able to get through and get benefits continues and is compounded by more reports of fraud. He’s been demanding for months to have public hearings to hold the Pritzker administration accountable, but the Democratic majority isn’t budging.

“It’s shameful that we can not meet in Springfield and take care of the issues,” Murphy said. “I’ve been calling on the General Assembly to meet since March and I don’t understand why we’re AWOL during the biggest crisis in my lifetime.”

The chair of the House committee that oversees the Illinois Department of Employment Security, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, has for weeks declined to call a public hearing on the matter.

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