Joliet officials await response from Pritzker on outdoor dining proposal

Other businesses would follow if Pritzker approves

5/18/2020, 9:24 p.m.
Restaurants in Joliet with outdoor dining or the ability to create outdoor dining could soon be able to do so ...
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk held a press conference at city hall on Friday where he announced a plan submitted to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office to reopen restaurants for outdoor dining.

A number of area state legislators also want to see Will County removed from the Cook County region.

State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) and her colleagues from Will County said the two regions have “unique challenges and should be addressed separately.

“Families and businesses are struggling. Most people I speak with understand the need for caution, but are prepared to work under new safety precautions,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “If my district stayed in the same region as Chicago and Cook County, it would most likely be the last part of the state to open.”

Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) is among those expressing their concerns. “I think there's a way to balance public health and the reopening of many businesses but it will take the cooperation of the community,” Manley said. “The last thing we want is to crush the hospital system and endanger the health and safety of our first responders”

Area legislators pointe to the drastic difference in numbers of cases and deaths from the coronavirus as good reason to not tie the two counties together.

As of Thursday, they said, Will County had 4,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 230 deaths. In comparison, Cook County had over 24,000 positive cases and 1,100 deaths. Furthermore, with social distancing at the forefront of keeping the virus asunder, Will County’s population compared to Chicago’s population as well as square miles clearly shows distinct differences between the two areas.

Bertino-Tarrant is working with the Will County Health Department to address the needs of local communities to be prepared if the governor adjusts the reopening plan based on the county’s ability to offer alternatives.

“Any plan needs to address safety guidelines, hospital and ventilator capacities and PPE availability. Furthermore, it needs to be led by the Will County Health Department, who has the responsibility of monitoring and reporting,” Bertino-Tarrant offered. “The legislators I have spoken to understand the needs to have a reasonable balance, with individual health concerns being the number one priority.”

Rep. John Connor (D-Lockport) said he will work with Bertino-Tarrant and the Will County Health Department in hopes of gathering as much information as possible to determine if the area is ready to go to the next phase.

“I look forward to reviewing the relevant data with the Will County Health Department and other agencies to determine if Will County's current district placement is the best possible fit moving forward in this pandemic,” Connor said.

Additionally, less than 700,000 people make up Will County, compared to the more than 5.15 million people who live in Cook County.

“Governor Pritzker is right that one must have a life to have a livelihood,” State Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) said. “If local health departments have suggestions how residents of COVID-19 low-incidence areas safely can have both, I hope the governor will consider them.”