Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended Sunday his cautious economic reopening plan, which leaves schools and many businesses shuttered until the novel coronavirus is all but defeated, saying the state will be unable to return to normal “until we’re able to eradicate it.”
“The truth is coronavirus is still out there. It hasn’t gone anywhere,” Mr. Pritzker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So we all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it.”
The Democratic governor unveiled Wednesday his “Restore Illinois” five-phase reopening plan, prompting allegations that he had moved the goal from “bending the curve” to eliminating COVID-19 altogether by requiring a cure or vaccine before allowing the return of schools and non-essential businesses.
In a staff editorial, the Chicago Tribune called his plan “cautious in the extreme,” noting that it bans reopening schools, barbershops, salons, gyms, bars and restaurants—and then with capacity restrictions — only after the advent of a vaccine, herd immunity, or an “effectively and widely available treatment.”
“Actually, he’s being more than just cautious. He has moved the goal posts,” said the editorial. “Pritzker’s latest plan extends the benchmarks for victory from bending the infection curve to defeating the virus altogether.”
Mr. Pritzker swung back by arguing, “If the Chicago Tribune thinks we can go back to completely normal without us having a very effective treatment or vaccine, they’re just dead wrong.”
The governor has also come under fire from Republican legislators who have accused him of governing via emergency executive orders, instead of the involving the state legislature.
He noted that the state recently reopened state parks and some golf courses with face-mask and social-distancing requirements.
“Assuming maybe we never get a vaccine, we’re going to have to deal with hopefully a treatment that will come along that will be very effective,” Mr. Pritzker said. “Even without that, everyone will have to wear a mask. We’re still going to have to socially distance.”
The governor also pointed to the state’s progress, saying that new hospitalizations have flattened and that Illinois ranks second among the 10 most populous states in testing and recently exceeded 20,000 coronavirus tests per day.
“We put in a mask order that everybody across the state has to wear a face covering when they’re in public,” said Mr. Pritzker. “So, we have done a lot to make sure that we’re keeping these numbers moving in the right direction. And we will not reopen unless we meet all of the standards that I have set for doing so.”