FILE - Protesters gather in Springfield

A group of protesters gathered in Springfield on Thursday to demand the state be reopened.

(The Center Square) – Five people gathered outside the Capitol in Springfield on Thursday to demand the governor and other officials reopen the state and get people back to work. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker implemented an emergency stay-at-home order on March 21. The order forced all nonessential businesses to close and requires people to stay at home unless going out for essential supplies or going outside for exercise. The order was put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that emerged from China in late 2019.

Kenneth Arnold, 28, of Springfield, spent about 1.5 hours outside protesting near the capitol building on Thursday with four other people. 

He said his frustration with the state's stay-at-home order had been growing for weeks. He said local rules implemented by Springfield's mayor prompted him to take action.

Arnold, who lives with his wife and two children, said he was tired of being cooped up. 

"I think our government is pushing too far," he said.

Arnold said he expected more people would join protests in the future if the governor's stay-at-home order is extended past April 30. 

"It's not just about people's jobs, it is children being banned from parks and playgrounds," he said. "People not being able to go to parks and recreational facilities. Being told what is and isn't essential for purchase at stores. It's about Pritzker and other governors overreacting. The constitution being wadded up and tossed out. Going back to work for people is only half of the battle."

Arnold said he left a job shortly before the pandemic and that his family was relying on savings and income from his wife's job to get by. Many other families don't have savings or income, he said.

Public health officials reported a total of 24,593 cases of COVID-19, including 948 deaths, statewide as of Wednesday. Cases have been reported in 89 of the state's 102 counties. Union County was the latest county to join the list.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday extended that state's Safer at Home order to keep people at home and keep nonessential businesses closed until May 26.

Earlier on Thursday, Pritzker and Evers had said they planned to work with a group of five other Midwest governors to evaluate how and when to reopen the regional economy. 

Worldwide, 2,113,226 cases have been reported along with 140,371 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Regional Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.