(The Center Square) – Nearly a full year into unilaterally regulating the state’s economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritkzer expects to continue restrictions, but with modifications.
What those modifications will look like is unclear.
The governor’s Feb. 30 COVID-19 proclamation expires Sunday. He filed a new 30-day emergency order Friday evening that expires April 4. But there are also emergency rules in place requiring businesses in Illinois to follow mask and distancing guidelines or face fines.
The state’s leisure and hospitality sector is being held down by the governor’s 50 person group limits he says is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We can’t exist in just the Phase 4 limbo and hope that regulations are going to change in the next two weeks or next three weeks, we need a ramp,” Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter told a Senate committee Thursday.
Phase 4 of the governor’s COVID-19 reopening plan limits gatherings to 50 people. There’s no other step before Phase 5 of the governor’s plan, which has no restrictions. Entering that phase without restrictions would happen when a vaccine is widely available. Pritzker has said that means herd immunity, but hasn’t elaborated.
State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said something has to give.
“The concern is … that there’s no coordination in messaging to salvage these conventions,” Feigenholtz said.
Pritzker on Friday said he worries about variants of COVID-19. The state reports 70 such variant cases since it started tracking weeks ago.
“We’re going to keep going, but we’re also very cognizant that we want to make sure that businesses have the opportunity to begin gradually opening,” Pritzker said. “So we’re making changes, adjustments along the way here.”
Convention spaces are looking for what those adjustments might be.
“The issue is the capacity restrictions that we’re still under that prohibit venues to bring individuals into those spaces,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said Thursday. “We’re able to provide for the distancing within our vast spaces. I have 170,000 [square feet] of exhibition space and it’s currently limited to only 50 people.”
“I’m looking at all of that, the doctors are looking at all of that, and we’re trying to measure how much progress are we making on vaccines and how well are we doing on the numbers,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker touted the state’s low COVID-19 positivity rate and said his masking mandates will continue. The most recent emergency rule for the statewide mask mandate and capacity restrictions that the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules let stand expires in early June.
Changes to his orders will be “in the coming weeks,” Pritzker said Friday.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the governor should welcome legislative oversight and input.
“It’s time for the governor to allow all branches of government to be part of the decision-making process as opposed to the go-alone attitude of the governor which is to mandate through executive order,” Rezin told WMAY.
Without legislative oversight or intervention, Pritzker has issued 14 COVID-19 executive orders over the past year prompting lawsuits from individuals and business owners looking for relief from the courts.