When Governor JB Pritzker announced the state’s COVID-19 “mitigation” plan for the eastern metropolitan region on August 16, he said it had been done in collaboration “with local officials of the region of the eastern metropolitan region and across the border in Saint-Louis ”.
Last week, however, the governor admitted that the cross-border arrangement to try to contain the spread of the virus was a “mistake”.
Man, was it ever.
Instead of sticking to the state’s initial mitigation plan, which would have included items such as reducing indoor restaurant capacity and shutting down all indoor bar services, Pritzker only ordered the bars and restaurants closed until 11 pm, which was in line with what St. Louis was planning at the time.
But the region’s test positivity rate has since continued to rise, as of this writing, to just over 10%, by far the highest in Illinois.
Then, last week, Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, experienced positivity rates of over 8% three days in a row, triggering an automatic attenuation of the condition.
According to a report by Belleville News-Democrat, the Illinois Department of Public Health informed Metro East officials last Monday that their region’s state restrictions would be tightened to match those that were about to go. ‘be imposed on Will and Kankakee, including a ban on eating inside and drinking.
But the same Democratic Metro East lawmakers who prematurely demanded that Pritzker speed up the process of reopening businesses on May 12 created a crisis and Pritzker backed down.
The protesting Democrats were right, I guess. Pritzker initially said the restrictions he put in place would last for two weeks. Local politicians wanted the governor to keep his word. And the governor’s own plan says that once a region meets the “resurgence criteria”, a “tiered menu of mitigation options will be considered.” There are no hard and fast rules in his plan, and these Democrats in the Eastern Metropolitan Area undoubtedly knew the loopholes.
But that meant that Pritzker would impose significantly tighter restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties, even though both counties have significantly lower positivity rates than Metro East (8.4% vs. 10.4% at the time I write this).
And that sparked Republican Senators Sue Rezin and John Curran, who represent parts of Region 7. Both claimed the governor had “decided to put partisan politics above science.” The same rules should apply to all regions, they said, “and they should be based on science, not politics”.
It didn’t help that Pritzker didn’t contact the two Republican lawmakers before making his announcement. So they too had a valid point.
On a crass political level, the Metro East was instrumental in Pritzker’s Democratic primary victory in 2018. It is also a region of vital importance to his “Fair Tax” proposal. Without the full and fervent cooperation of these powerful local political organizations, there is no doubt that his tax plan will be in serious trouble.
The simple fact of the matter, however, is that Pritzker cannot, on the one hand, say that he values science rather than politics and, on the other hand, even appear to give in for claims. political motives.
There might have been good reasons to try to level the restrictions with St. Louis, as the city is only minutes away from everyone in the Metro East, which is small. compared to the Missouri metro area. It’s not like the governor can shut down the bridges, after all. And, yes, Pritzker said he would give the region two weeks. But he openly admitted last week that his actions clearly hadn’t worked. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.
This region is on the verge of spiraling out of control, if it hasn’t already. Illinois can’t do nothing for Missouri. Deal with Illinois.
Thankfully, Pritzker seemed chastised by the whole experience of the past week when he was pressed by a reporter. “I readily admit that it was not a good idea,” he said. He should never, ever do that again.
And it is high time that Democratic lawmakers in the eastern metropolitan region who have mobilized since May against the governor’s decrees to loudly demand that their constituents finally take this pandemic seriously. There is no excuse for this nonsense. The region is quickly becoming a national hotspot, to shout out loud.
Many of those same legislators have gone to great lengths to establish a large local contact tracing pilot program in St. Clair County. But experts have said that contact tracing may be exceeded when the positivity rate is above 5%. It is not a panacea. Do better. There is no easy way out.
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