By Stephanie Malench
The Madison County Health Department voted 26-2 on Tuesday evening to allow Madison County businesses to reopen as early as Wednesday, May 13 under strict guidelines.
The resolution was originally brought before the committee which is made up of board members last Friday afternoon, but board members asked that the committee wait until after the weekend giving State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons a chance to look over the resolution and make sure it was legally sound.
A special committee made up of four Republicans (Erica Harriss (R-Glen Carbon), Ray Wesley (R-Alton), David Michael (R-Highland), Chrissy Dalton (R- Bethalto), three Democrats Gussie Glasper (D-Madison), Matt King (D- East Alton), and Chris Haskins (D-Pontoon Beach), State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, and Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler met over the weekend to fine tune the resolution.
Key components of the resolution include the rights of businesses “to impose their own restrictions on entry or use of their stores or shops as they deem appropriate and the public is encouraged to observe and comply with these restrictions…to encourage public trust and transparency during this dramatic time, if a business, places of worship or other entity desires to re-open, it should plan to do so in a safe and responsible way, with phasing as to not jeopardize health, if appropriate”.
A “disclaimer” resolution was added to the end, stating “The adoption of this resolution makes no comment or opinion or promise as to the insurability or licensure of any individual or business for operating in a manner inconsistent with any executive order or state statute”. Individual businesses are encouraged to speak with their corporate counsel before making the decision to open.
A provision requiring a business, church, or place of worship wishing to re-open must “provide a Notice of Re-Opening to the Board of Health with a copy to the Madison County Health Department, along with a plan on how they will re-open in a safe and responsible way. The business or church may re-open immediately upon submission, but the Health Department can order them to close again if the Board requests adaptations to the plan and the business does not follow through or an agreement cannot be reached on how to make the modifications to stay open” was removed from the final draft.
Two of the County Board members, Clint Jones and Chris Guy (both R-Maryville) created a survey and shared to Facebook on Saturday evening for all of the county board members and anyone else who wanted to share the link to get feedback from their constituents on the resolution. The survey received 8106 views and 3472 votes. 2500 votes, or 72% were in favor of reopening all businesses and churches effective May 13, 2020, 864 votes were cast to not reopen all businesses and churches effective May 13, 2020, and 108, or 3.1% were undecided.
Several board members commented during the meeting that Illinois Democrats have asked Governor Pritzker to move the entire state to phase 3 by Friday, putting everyone else in line with the Madison County resolution.
Many questions were asked and remained unanswered after the meeting. Will the Governor take state funding away from counties that open before the state? Does the Governor have the authority to pull licenses? Who will be accountable if cases and number of deaths increase after businesses open?
After the meeting, two board members, Chris Guy (R-Maryville and Erica Harriss (R- Glen Carbon) stressed that businesses, especially those that hold state licenses such as masseuses, cosmetologists, and restaurants with liquor licenses) proceed with caution and talk to their insurance providers and attorneys before reopening.
The reopening is divided into four phases, with each phase lasting approximately 2 weeks. During phase one which should run from May 13 until May 27: retail businesses may open with a 25% occupancy; restaurants and bars may continue curbside, delivery, and take out as well as open seated dining at a 25% occupancy rate; hair, nail, massage and other personal care providers may reopen and limit customers by appointment; professional services such as banks and accountants may reopen by appointment only to limit customers; churches and places of worship may open at 50% occupancy; childcare facilities may reopen with continual sanitizing of food and frequently touched surfaces; gyms and indoor recreation facilities may open at 25%, outdoor recreation venues may open as long as people follow social distancing; and theaters, museums, and bowling alleys may reopen at 25% occupancy.
The next phase will begin May 28 assuming Madison County Health Department assessment of COVID19 cases presenting for hospitalization remain sufficiently below the hospitals ability to treat the cases. Social gatherings will be increased to 50 and retail businesses and restaurants/bars may reopen at 50% occupancy. Churches may increase to 75% and concessions may reopen at athletic events.
Phase 3 would be estimated to begin June 13 and gatherings can increase to 150, restaurants and retail stores could increase to 75%. Churches and places of worship could open to capacity.
If all phases last the two weeks the county would be fully reopened on June 27, assuming Madison County Health Department assessment of COVID19 cases presenting for hospitalization remain sufficiently below the hospitals ability to treat the cases.