Local leaders share Heart of Illinois sub-region reopening plan that would open more businesses faster

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Central Illinois officials shared their proposed Heart of Illinois Implementation Plan on Wednesday that was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

City of Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, East Peoria Mayor John Kahl, Peoria County Board Chairman Andrew Rand, and Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson are among those backing the proposal that aims to separate the “Heart of Illinois” into a sub-region from Pritzker’s regions he shared in his five-phase plan to reopen Illinois by region amid the COVID-19 pandemic last week.

His plan separates the state into different health regions, each with the ability to independently move through a phased approach: Northeast Illinois; North-Central Illinois; Central Illinois; and Southern Illinois.

According to Hendrickson, the data used to assess readiness in the Heart of Illinois Implementation Plan meets and exceeds the required data points in the Restore Illinois Plan. The central Illinois plan also offers a more rapid movement through phases than Pritzker’s.

The results of monitoring and responding to this data would allow the sub-region to progress through Phase 2, 3 & 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan by following three stages. Movement through the stages would be based upon the data points found within this implementation plan:

  1. Regional reopening of most businesses (including restaurants) up to 50% of permitted occupancy, if possible. Keep high-contact, high-risk and/or high-volume locations and groups closed or direct to continue self-isolation policies.
  2. Regional reopening of most businesses up to 75%. Keep high-contact, high-risk and/or high-volume locations and groups closed or direct to continue quarantine/isolation policies.
  3. Regional reopening of most businesses up to 100% with additional requirements on cleaning and PPE still in place. Planned reopening of high-contact and/or high-volume locations. Updated guidance for high-risk organizations and groups.

Stage 1 overlaps with phases 2 and 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan. Most businesses and organizations will open at 50% of allowed occupancy. Stage 2, which overlaps with phases 2, 3, and 4, would be activated upon data that indicates readiness for three consecutive weeks. Stage 3 would also only be activated after three consecutive weeks of consistent data and overlaps with phases 3 and 4.

“We really feel strongly that the sub-regions we’ve identified don’t dilute anything from his plan and actually could make it stronger,” Ardis said.

There will be additional requirements and slower opening of businesses, depending on the type of business and expected risks. Large venues will be the last to open due to high contact intensity, a high number of contacts, and low modification potential.

Ardis said the plan could go into effect in seven to 10 days.

The group is proposing the whole sub-region moves from stage to stage together. The extended time in each stage is designed to mitigate the larger opening allowances in each stage and to provide a more comprehensive data pool and analysis before moving to the next stage, per the plan.

The governor said each part of the state is currently in the second phase, and the earliest a state could move to phase three is May 29. Hendrickson said this region is where it needs to be to move onto the next phase.

The counties part of the sub-region include Peoria, McLean, Tazewell, Woodford, LaSalle, Fulton, Marshall, Livingston, Stark, Bureau, and Putnam.

“I feel that it’s truly the time to that we have to do something for theses small businesses that are truly on their knees at this point again we have to do it safely,” Washington Mayor Gary Manier said. 

Ardis said OSF HealthCare, UnityPoint Health, and Heartland Health Services are all backing the proposal. Hendrickson helped create the plan to move the region forward and said the IDPH said it was “a strong plan.”

“They find it to be a very strong plan and are very much impressed with the medical and healthcare metrics,” she said.

Local leaders also noted that the region’s healthcare capacity can allow for a swifter reopening.

Pritzker has not yet commented on this plan, which was submitted to his office on Friday. However, Ardis noted that they will move ahead with or without his approval. The group advised businesses with state licenses to re-open at their own risk.

Pritzker’s phases include:

  • Phase 1 – Rapid Spread: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital is high or rapidly increasing. Strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines are put in place and only essential businesses remain open. Every region has experienced this phase once already and could return to it if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful.
  • Phase 2 – Flattening: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital beds and ICU beds increases at an even slower rate, moving toward a flat and even a downward trajectory. Non-essential retail stores reopen for curbside pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face-covering when outside the home, and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating, and fishing while practicing social distancing. To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May.
  • Phase 3 – Recovery: The rate of infection among those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops, and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. Health and fitness clubs can provide outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training with IDPH approved safety guidance. All gatherings limited to 10 or fewer people are allowed. Face coverings and social distancing are the norms.
  • Phase 4 – Revitalization: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. All gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, child care, and schools reopen under guidance from the IDPH. Face coverings and social distancing are the norms.
  • Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals, and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools, and places of recreation can open with new safety guidelines and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the full press conference below.

Latest Headlines

Stay Connected

Stay Connected

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

National Unemployment Tracker

Trending Stories

Latest Local News

More Local News