EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) - As the State of Illinois remains under stay-at-home orders, officials in one Illinois county voted Tuesday night to re-open effective on Wednesday.
Madison County Health Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler is behind a resolution that allows businesses in the county to open in phases. Restaurants, gyms and salons could open as early as Wednesday with restrictions.
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"It basically says that all businesses are essential," said Prenzler.
Nearly 30 members of the Madison County Board of Health voted on the resolution, with a majority voting in favor. The plan, detailed in four phases, allows restaurants, bars, salons, daycares and gyms to open Wednesday. Restaurants, retail shops and gyms must only allow 25 percent of their capacity. Salons will have to limit customers by appointment only.
"We're not talking about something that would happen immediately, we're talking about a phased plan," Prenzler said.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker threatened the county with a loss of federal relief funding. Pritzker said he worries the county leaders and business owners who move to reopen are not following science and data.
"The vast majority of those counties and business owners are not talking to epidemiologists, not talking to scientists in fact they're not relying on science in any way whatsoever to make their decision," Pritzker said Tuesday from his home during his daily news conference.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the county reported 446 confirmed coronavirus cases and 33 deaths. When asked about the concern of further spread, Prenzler points to recovery numbers which stand at 186. In the last two months, he said 15,000 county residents have filed for unemployment, one of the reasons he's eager to get the economy back up and running.
"We believe our citizens can do this in a reasonable and responsible way," said Prenzler. "If they don't, we have the power to shut them down as the Board of Health."
Madison County Democrats released a statement against the plan Tuesday, calling it risky and reckless. News 4 spoke with several residents who agree it's too soon.
State Rep. Moinca Bristow, along with six other Democratic lawmakers who represent southern districts in Illinois, wrote a letter to Pritzker, proposing a plan to reopen businesses in their districts on Friday, May 15. However, Madison County did not wait.
"The Madison County resolution doesn’t provide any protections for the worker that is afraid to go to work because of COVID," said Bristow. There is some disappointment, in that we’d rather ask for permission than forgiveness."
Many residents said they aren't sure if reopening now is the right thing to do.
"I think we should be as cautious as we can be and should probably give ourselves as much time as we can and try not to rush things," said Tanner Hartman.
Business owners like Tarek Samara are eager to reopen. He said his restaurant, Sgt. Pepper's Cafe, has suffered an 80 percent decrease in sales.
"It's been actually devastating, never really felt so powerless as far as not having control over your business," he said.