Mayor Ardis says it will be ‘difficult’ to enforce another shutdown if COVID-19 cases spike

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Mayor Jim Ardis still has emergency powers but says he doesn't foresee having to use his powers to shut down again

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Five days into phase four of the Illinois reopening plan and COVID-19 numbers are steady. However, Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson, and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said we aren’t in the clear just yet.

Ardis said he still has emergency powers, but he doesn’t think Peoria has to worry about a spike in cases like other states are seeing. Nationwide Thursday, U.S saw the most cases reported in a single day. This is days after several states reported a surge in COVID-19 cases. According to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Illinois is ranked number six with the most number of COVID-19 cases.

But Ardis said he has confidence in his community.

Peorians months at home during Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s restore Illinois plan. Now in phase 4, they have more freedom. They can go to restaurants, gyms, and catch a movie while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

Still, Ardis said Peoria has a long way to go.

“It’s really important that people don’t take for granted that our numbers are low. They need to continue to practice safe distancing they need to continue to wear there face masks as much as we don’t like it, people need to continue to do that,” he said.

According to Vice President Mike Pence, 16 southern states are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, after beginning to reopen in April, now many municipalities in those states have to reverse those decisions. But Ardis said he doesn’t forsee having to use his emergency powers to shut down again.

“If it was another situation where the numbers spiked again it most likely wouldn’t be just in Peoria,” he said. “And I would expect that if that happens it that the governor would issue another order and that wouldn’t come from the local level.”

Hendrickson also added, “I will say there are expectations that we will see the numbers increase. Again this is a novel virus nobody has immunity to it. It hasn’t existed so the numbers are generally going to increase.”

Even though the area hasn’t seen a consistent uptick in COVID-19 cases. Peoria city-county health official Monica Hendrickson said it’s too soon to see the impact of reopening.

“I think around day 10 through 14 we will see our first surge{of COVID-19 cases} if there are any, and then we will wait for another incubation period to see whether it was maybe a blimp or continuous increase,” she said. “Again it’s too early to tell.”

Ardis said if Peorians don’t continue to follow social distance guidelines, shutting down again is not off the table.

“It will just be extremely difficult because people are going to really resits going back to a position where we have to start over again,” he said.

The Peoria City/ County Health Department is reporting no new COVID-19 cases Tuesday because of a system error. Tuesday’s total stays at 487 positive cases and 28 deaths.

Hendrickson also said the health department will be rolling out a new phone software next week to enhance contact tracing with the expectations of increase COVID-19 cases.

Some Peoria business owners said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in financial losses of more than $100,000. The owners said they have considered the possibility of another shutdown, but add that it would be even more devastating than the first.

Mike Hallar, owner of Screenprinting and Academy Awards, Inc. said closing his store cost him money and morale. “This is driving me absolutely out of my mind because one we didn’t feel they had the right to tell us to do that,” Hallar said.

He said if the governor announces another statewide shutdown, he plans to keep his store open.

“This is my business I own it, it’s my property you don’t have the right to do it,” Hallar said. “That’s why they haven’t put anybody in jail for defying them, you can’t.”

Other owners said the risk of a revoked state license poses a big threat to business. Alex Grieves, owner of the Spirit of Peoria said he canceled multiple trips in March and April causing his company to lose approximately $250,000.

Grieves adds that he cannot defy the order if given because he has a state license to serve liquor on his boat.

“I hope we don’t get that here in Illinois it’s devastating I know a lot of small businesses like myself they’re not sure they can get through it,” Grieves said.

Following COVID-19 guidelines, Grieves said he lowered the Spirit of Peoria occupancy to 50%. However, he said the numbers are down and the boat has only been running at %15-%20.

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