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Excitement builds for businesses to reopen

Pritzker confirms all four regions will move to Phase 3 on Friday

By Rex Robinson | 5/28/2020, 9:06 p.m.
Things are about to change for some businesses in Will County and the rest of the state and that change ...
Vince Turrise (wearing grey and brown My Grain shirt) co-owner of MyGrain Brewing Company, 50 E. Jefferson St., in downtown Joliet, works with Kyle Whitledge on the patio outside the brewery Wednesday to prepare for reopening this weekend.Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois Plan starts Friday and allows restaurants and bars to reopen with guidelines in place. The Times Weekly

Things are about to change for some businesses in Will County and the rest of the state and that change is coming tomorrow, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

That has many in Will County excited as they are more than ready to get the county’s economy rolling again.

Pritzker on Thursday confirmed that all four regions of the state can move into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan on Friday. In addition to manufacturing, retail, barbershops and salons being allowed to re-open with requirements for face coverings and other safety precautions, restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for outdoor dining with restrictions that tables be six feet apart and employees who work directly with customers wear face covering.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, confirmed that from a public health standpoint, all regions are ready to move to the next phase. “We have successfully met the metrics to move into Phase 3, but we must still proceed with caution," she said, strongly encouraging everyone to continue to wear face coverings, wash their hands and practice social distancing."Let’s continue to do the hard work that is necessary to get us to the other side of this pandemic."

Pritzker said his decision to move the state to the next phase by May 29 came from epidemiologists reporting statistics showing that the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois was starting to slow and that the positivity rate, something Pritzker said needed to be below 20 for at least 14 days before restrictions could be eased, has been below 10 for the past 14 days.

Should the three metrics be met for moving from Phase 3 to Phase 4, regions throughout the state could get to that phase by June 26, Pritzker added.

For that to happen, however, he, like Ezike, urged vigilance in following the guidelines for safety precautions for each phase of the plan. "Let’s not move backward, but instead move forward together" he said.

Pritzker's initial announcement last week that all four regions were on track to move to Phase 3 came as great news to Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk who recently submitted a plan to Pritzker’s office to give restaurants the option of allowing outdoor dining with the same restrictions. The governor’s plan with the added modifications for allowing the outdoor dining, is very similar to what O’Dekirk submitted to Pritzker.

“I’m thankful,” O’Dekirk said. “I think it’s a great example of government working together to get to the right answer. We believe the plan we submitted to the governor is a responsible plan and within the government’s guidelines. We’re grateful that it will allow these business to start to get back on their feet.”

O’Dekirk credited former Joliet Corporation Counsel Marty Shanahan with drafting the proposal as submitted for Pritzker’s approval. Shanahan was removed from his position last week by interim Joliet City Manager Steve Jones. The next step for Joliet, according to O’Dekirk, is to submit the city’s plan for all businesses and churches.

“Marty Shanahan was working on follow-up proposals. With his firing, I don't know of any follow-up plan, and it doesn't appear that the five council people who are responsible for firing Mr. Shanahan have a plan of their own to submit,” O’Dekirk said.

O'Dekirk added his hopes are that local restaurant owners are able to operate safely and can start getting back on their feet.

“I think, at this phase, people have a much better handle on the precautions that need to be taken and that protective face masks, gloves, etc…, should be used whenever possible,” O’Dekirk said. “The original shut-down dealt with flattening the curve. It appears that we have been successful doing that. Taking responsible steps forward is the way I believe we should proceed, and I think these moves in our community should be judged based upon what is happening in our community.”

Here’s a link to more detailed information about guidelines for Phase 3 of the Plan: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/RestoreILP3.aspx.