Putting the lives of 12 million citizens on hold requires transparency and accountability

MCHENRY, IL. — My Senate Republican colleagues and I have repeatedly asked the Governor for specifics regarding the science and data he cites as the basis for his decisions leading to shuttered businesses and lost jobs, restricting social and religious gatherings, and impacting public education and school sports. Unfortunately, to no avail. 

Now, McHenry and Lake Counties are the latest areas to come under the Governor’s re-imposed mitigation standards, as of Saturday, October 31, 2020, according to a Pritzker press release. Our area is Region 9, which according to the Governor has seen a 7-day rolling average test positivity rate of 8 percent or above for three consecutive days. 

On behalf of the people in the 32nd District, we want to see the data Governor. 

By the way, no data has been provided showing restaurants are a leading cause of this latest surge, yet these businesses are the ones facing the harshest restrictions. Restaurant doors are being closed, and jobs are being lost.  In McHenry County we appear to only have three of 80 outbreaks (considered to be two or more cases) attributed to restaurants.  Is this the data from the IL Dept. of Public Health Outbreak Reporting System (ORS) that the Governor wants to hide from the public? 

Transparency would contribute to confidence in our state government and the decision-making. It would build support for admittedly controversial decisions, but transparency is also part of our democracy. It’s accountability every citizen deserves. We should not have to repeatedly demand it. 

The Illinois Senate should hold a hearing or hearings and invite staff from the governor’s office to come before the Legislature and the people of Illinois, to share the data they are using when implementing these mitigation measures. We should be able to have a respectful discussion on policies being unilaterally imposed, without being accused of not taking the coronavirus seriously. 

One key area that could give us a lot of valuable data is contact tracing. It is one of the oldest and most reliable tools public health officials have to combat infectious diseases. The Governor has made this point over and over and over again. On May 1, he spoke of plans to hire an “army of contact tracers,” a program for which the General Assembly appropriated $800 million. So, what’s the status of this program? 

Despite the Administration promising transparency about this data to legislators from both sides of the aisle, we still haven’t seen data collected through contact tracing. This information is important, because if we don’t know where the virus is spreading, we can’t possibly hope to stop it.  

Another issue of concern is the arbitrary way restrictions are implemented. For example, the Governor has ignored his own plans. When he announced his five-phase restore Illinois plan, restaurants were allowed to operate with a 50 percent capacity threshold in phase 4. Then, he announced his tiered mitigation plans, unrelated to his five-phase plan. Tier one of that process reduced indoor dining capacity to 25 percent. Tier two suspended indoor dining. He has completely skipped tier one.  Why? Under his original plan, all restaurants would be at 25 percent capacity. Now, he says no indoor dinning. He’s changing the rules in the middle of the game.  

By the way, no data has been provided showing restaurants are a leading cause of this latest surge, yet these businesses are the ones facing the harshest restrictions. Restaurant doors are being closed, and jobs are being lost.  

We need to know what’s driving the decisions causing this economic hardship. 

The Governor’s many, one-size-fits-all approaches from the start made little sense. For example, there was once a restriction in place limiting the number of people in a boat to two. So even a family of four who lives together and drive to the lake in the same vehicle, are supposed to leave two of their family members on the dock. 

Throughout this crisis, the Governor has chosen to act unilaterally. He has not engaged lawmakers, and he’s been quick to point fingers at those who disagree with his decisions. 

Leadership is about building consensus, and Senate Republicans have been willing from the outset to work with him during these unprecedented times. Unfortunately, while we have been willing to work with the Governor, the response has been conference call briefings that last minutes, and which inform us of decisions already made. 

Additionally, as your elected representatives, access to information shouldn’t have to be forced out of him through Freedom of Information Act filings. Calls have been placed, letters have been written and emails have been sent by members of both parties. Yet, we still cannot get the information we’ve requested from the Administration.  

Before any more businesses are forced to shut their doors for good, before another job is lost, and a family is left wondering how to pay their bills, we need to see the “science” and “data” driving these decisions. We demand transparency and accountability. This is a Representative Democracy. It’s time the Governor started acting like he was elected, not anointed.

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