FILE - Illinois, fine dining, Alinea, Chicago, Virus Outbreak Fine Dining

Marry Hammell, a staffer from Alinea restaurant, places carryout orders in the trunk of a car for a customer in Chicago, Saturday, June 20, 2020. Due to the coronavirus Alinea shifted to carryout on March 17. Since then, it has served 82,000 meals, said Nick Kokonas, the restaurant's co-owner.

(The Center Square) – Amid the chorus of Illinoisans frustrated with the state’s cautious reopening plan, a new coalition of labor, public health and other industry organizations wants Illinois to “follow the science” and ignore calls to reopen the state faster.

Open Safe Illinois calls the voices pushing to reopen businesses a “small, vocal minority” and points to polling that shows most people are still concerned about the new coronavirus. 

“We have not defeated the coronavirus, only slowed its spread,” said Abe Scarr, coalition coordinator and director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “Until we have an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, which could take years, it’s critical that decision-makers stay the course to protect the health and well-being of Illinoisans.”

Coalition members include: AgeOptions, AIDS Foundation Chicago, Alzheimer's Association - Illinois Chapter, Business and Professional People in the Public Interest, Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Jobs Council, Citizen Action Illinois, Coalition for the Homeless, Common Cause Illinois, Elevate Energy, Everthrive Illinois, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Heartland Alliance, Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois PIRG, Illinois Public Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, Rainbow Push Coalition, Respiratory Health Association, SEIU HealthCare, Sierra Club Illinois, and United Food and Commercial Workers 881.

Many labor union employees have stayed on the job because Gov. J.B. Pritzker deemed labor, construction, health care, and food-related businesses "essential." State workers, some employed by SEIU Healthcare, have either remained on the job or have been sent home with pay. 

Some business groups have criticized Pritzker for taking an approach to reopening that is slower and more restrictive than other states. An analysis by consumer data website WalletHub found Illinois had the most stringent restrictions of any state in the nation as of May 23. The site updated its metrics Tuesday to show the state ranks 41st overall. 

An analysis of state data by financial nonprofit Wirepoints contends portions of Illinois should be much further along with lifting restrictions at this point. 

“The data supporting that claim is overwhelming, especially when the downstate numbers are compared with those of the Chicagoland region,” Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said. “Case positivity rates downstate have collapsed for nearly two straight months and never reached the highs seen in Chicagoland. Per capita hospital admissions have also been just a fraction of those in the Northeast region. And there was never the risk of running short of hospital resources downstate like there was in Chicago.”

The coalition points to other states that reopened at a faster pace and have since seen an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Gov. Pritzker’s measured, public health-driven approach has slowed the spread of COVID-19 and saved lives,” said Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association. “It’s critical that we stay the course and continue to make decisions based on the best available data and public health analysis.”

Pritzker released guidance for Phase 4 of his reopening plan on Monday. As of Tuesday, Illinois had reported 137,224 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,671 deaths. The daily positivity rate has been slowing in recent weeks. 

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.