SOUTHERN ILLINOIS – House Republican legislators State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), Dave Severin (R-Benton), and Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) issued the following joint statement on Monday following Governor JB Pritzker’s visit to Murphysboro to announce increased state-imposed mitigation to be implemented in Region 5 based on three consecutive days of an eight percent or greater positivity rate.
“We disagree with Governor Pritzker’s decision to impose mitigation efforts on Region 5. Our region has been moved into mitigation based solely on the COVID-19 positivity rate. We believe the positivity rate metric is not a reliable indicator of the need for mitigation as it is dependent on the number of tests conducted in the region.
We also believe strongly that other metrics, such as the hospitalization rate and availability of intensive care unit beds and regular hospital beds are more accurate in determining whether mitigation is appropriate. Furthermore, part of the numbers that are factored into the positivity rate include outbreaks at Choate Mental Health and entities associated with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The Governor bears responsibility for the safe operation of agencies under his control. Nowhere in the Governor’s comments did he take personal responsibility for the lack of control of the spread of the coronavirus at State-run facilities.
Also, we take serious offense that Governor Pritzker has chosen to treat the citizens of Southern Illinois that live in Region 5 differently than the people of the Metro East. Governor Pritzker, at the urging of his Democrat compatriots in the General Assembly, gave the Metro East region two weeks to prepare for mitigation. In Southern Illinois’ Region 5, where only Republicans are elected as State Representatives and State Senators, our businesses have been given just 48 hours to shut down in-person dining and bar service.
This is unacceptable.
For businesses that are potentially eligible for Business Interruption Grants, we are further disappointed that Governor Pritzker did not outline when applications would be available, how much funding will be available or put staff from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in place in Southern Illinois to help affected businesses navigate the grant process.
We recognize the Governor’s decision to place Region 5 back into COVID mitigation will impact all of the constituents that we each serve, which makes it important that we use the best metrics available before imposing additional restrictions on our citizens. We recognize and understand the seriousness of COVID-19.
The pandemic’s effects continue to be far-reaching, but we must fight to save Southern Illinois’ small businesses and our economy at large.
We are encouraging our constituents to practice responsible social distancing, wear masks, and practice enhanced sanitation efforts. The more that we do as a region to limit the spread of coronavirus, the faster these mitigations will be lifted. Until that time, we will continue to draw attention to our disagreements with the Governor’s approach and continue to demand the inclusion of the legislature in managing this pandemic to its eventual end.”
Meanwhile, State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), who represents several counties in Region 5, voiced his concerns for the mitigations and stressed the need to continue promoting public safety.
“We want to do everything in our power to prevent further spread of COVID-19,” said Sen. Fowler. “But we have to recognize that Southern Illinois is not like the rest of the state, and this blanket mitigation approach raises serious concerns for many in our region.”
Fowler said there’s a “serious disparity” in testing availability in rural areas, potentially skewing the data being used in Region 5.
“As of now, testing is not as widely available throughout the region as it is in more densely populated areas. So, it follows that Region 5, which has several rural areas, will have a higher number of positive tests,” said Sen. Fowler. “Before we decide to pull the region backwards, I want to ensure testing is easily accessible and our positivity rate isn’t unfairly biased.”
He noted that efforts are being undertaken to improve access in southern Illinois, with several mobile testing sites opening throughout the region. However, he cautioned that while it’s “a step in the right direction,” no immediate action should be taken to shutdown Region 5.
Region 5 consists of Alexander, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, St Clair, Saline, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson counties.