Illinois House and Senate Republicans are demanding to see data that proves restaurants and bars the “super spreaders” of COVID-19 that are triggering mitigations in Region 3 set to take effect Sunday. State Senator Steve McClure, 100th District Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, and 99th District Representative Mike Murphy of Springfield held a press conference Friday at Panther Creek Country Club. They were joined by members of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association and local bar and restaurant owners demanding the release of concrete data that ties the recent spike of COVID-19 in the region to indoor dining.
Region 3 includes Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Schuyler, Macoupin, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, and Scott. Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Tier 1 mitigation orders indoor service at bars and restaurants to close, all public gatherings be limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25% capacity, and that all restaurants, gaming parlors, and casinos cease any operations at 11PM each day.
Davidsmeyer questioned the metrics being used to trigger the mitigations: “Basically, it all goes back to facts. People keep saying let’s go through the science, let’s look at this. Well, there is nothing that shows that outbreaks are happening coming out of bars and restaurants. They are happening at family gatherings. They are happening at friendly gatherings. They are happening at some small colleges when young kids get together. Once again, [State Republicans] believe you should be wearing your mask, washing your hands, socially distancing. We are not against science. We believe COVID exists. It is an issue. I’ve had a friend pass away from it, so it is a thing, but we need to make sure we are going after the right sources.”
McClure says that Governor Pritzker is simply playing politics: “There is no transparency. There is no accountability. We are constantly told the science backs up what [the state] is saying and yet we are never, ever, ever shown the science. We are told the science is just so crystal clear. In fact, I’ve seen a press conference in the last couple of weeks where pieces of paper were raised. ‘It’s right here. The data is ritght here.’ Then, we ask, ‘Then show it to us.’ We are happy to see this and to see where you’re coming from. ‘We’ll get it to you right away!’ I’ve yet to get it, and this [virus] didn’t come to us yesterday.”
Murphy says that restaurant and bar owners need to see what elected officials have been told from the Pritzker Administration: “You guys need to see the data that’s justifying your closing. On October 20th, myself and 21 other members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Department of Public Health and the Governor asking them for that data that he proudly waved at a press conference. We have yet to get it. [On Thursday,] during the call with the Pritzker Administration and the Department of Public Health, I mentioned it again to Dr. Ezike. She said maybe in another week. That’s not acceptable. This is your life. This is your employees’ lives. If they have justification to close you, show it. No one here wants to harm people. Show us the data so we can understand, and work with us. They have yet to work with the Illinois Restaurant Association and others on measures that will allow you to stay open. It’s just one-sided.”
McClure also says that the Thursday phone call with the Governor’s Office presented no evidence that bars and restaurants were the source of COVID-19 outbreaks and rising metrics in the region. McClure says that the Illinois Department of Public Health linked the rising positivity rates and multiple positive cases back to outbreaks to 2 colleges and a private party.
87th District Representative Tim Butler of Springfield weighed in on the lack of transparency during a conference call with the Illinois press on Thursday with fellow Republican Representative Avery Bourne, Murphy, and Davidsmeyer. Butler is himself recovering from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis at home. He echoed many similar concerns of his fellow House Republicans, saying Governor Pritzker hasn’t provided information about COVID-19 numbers in state buildings: “Region 3 is the home of the state capital. We hear nothing…nothing about COVID spread in buildings that are under the Governor’s control, and if there are problems in state buildings and state facilities. We really hear nothing about that. I get lots of people saying things to me hearing that they have heard about COVID outbreaks in this state building or that state building, but we don’t see any metrics on state facilities. C.D. has prisons. I have prisons. Avery has prisons. We don’t see any metrics on that, and that’s another area where being transparent is so important because we really need to get to the root of this.”
McClure also says that the data is not readily available for the metrics to close regions down: “If the data was so sufficient to make this decision where you are going to cause people to lose their livelihoods, to lose their jobs, to lose businesses, to lose their life savings – you would think that science would be readily available and if we asked for it, you could provide it for us instantly. What we have been told is, that maybe next week we will get that information, maybe after the election. So the question for me is: What science are we basing this decision on? Is it hard science? Because it seems to be political science, and I’ve had about enough of this stuff.”
Davidsmeyer says it’s a failure of the state’s response all the way around when it comes to the pandemic: “We need to be a part of this discussion. The Governor has gone way too far for way too long trying to run this state on his own, and it’s a complete and utter failure not just on closures but IDES is failing people, the FOID system is failing people because [the FOID system employees] are not actually at work. You name it. The Gaming Board is taking too long to get out gaming licenses. Everything is slowing down because the state is not doing anything. They are just blaming COVID for everything. We have to make changes and we have to be part of the discussion. Speaker Madigan call us back [to session] now. Let’s be part of the discussion.”
Ten of the state’s 11 EMS regions are set to be in Tier 1 mitigation response by tomorrow. Region 2 has reached the 8% positivity rate threshold and is expected to go under the mitigations by the middle of next week, possibly placing the entire state under the rules. McClure says that many of the restaurant and bar owners he’s personally spoken with in his district won’t survive the shutdown and will be forced to close permanently. The Illinois Restaurant Association announced in a news conference Friday morning that it would file a court amicus brief supporting lawsuits in Kane, McHenry, DuPage, Cook, Kankakee, Will and Sangamon counties against the mitigations being imposed. The Illinois State Police have also been mobilized throughout the state to write tickets for businesses they see violating the Tier 1 mitigation rules.