63rd District Open Letter to Gov. Pritzker

Dear Governor Pritzker:

During the past several months, I’ve done my best to give you the benefit of the doubt as you grapple with the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve done so because I have a great appreciation for the pressures you are under, and I know that you have done what you believe to be in the best interests of the people of Illinois. None of us has been through this before, and I was not going to engage in second-guessing.

However, I’m obliged to tell you that your “Restore Illinois” plan, as it affects the people of the 63rd District and McHenry County as a whole is misguided, and must be either changed or scrapped. To include McHenry County within the region that includes Chicago and Cook County is to ignore the realities that exist here.

Please allow me to give you some statistics to back up my position. As of May 5th, McHenry County has recorded 817 cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths. Of those, 313 cases and 19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other residential care facilities where there is a much higher concentration of co-morbidity. There have been at least 23 confirmed cases and 8 deaths at Sheltered Village, a private home for the developmentally disabled in Woodstock which, for whatever reason, are not included in these statistics. There have been 3,764 total tests for COVID-19 as of May 5th.  The “positivity rate” which your plan relies upon to allow regions to move forward, is 21.7%, but if you take out the 313 reported cases from residential care, the positivity rate among the general population drops to 13.3%, far below the 20% called for in your plan.

I could go on, but let me cut to the chase. In your introduction to “Restore Illinois”, you explain that your plan begins with the 11 Emergency Medical Service Regions that IDPH has “traditionally guided its statewide public health work”. I think we can agree that there is nothing “traditional” about COVID-19. Following on that is the recommendation that McHenry County (Region 9) be lumped into the Northeast Health Region, along with Chicago and Cook County, which have the highest concentrations of infection and death in the State. This is unacceptable. By putting McHenry County into this region, your plan guarantees that it will be bound, not by the dedicated efforts of our county Emergency Management Agency and Health Department and by our local governments, nor the community spirit that abounds here as we do our part to stop this disease, but by cold statistics that cannot help but be skewed by a population density over which we have no control.

Governor, there has to be a better way to allow this economy to open. Please allow me several suggestions that you may consider. One way would be to make Cook County its own region, allowing the collar counties to rely upon their own resources and results to determine the pace at which they may begin to come back, as has been proposed by the EMA director in Will County. Another would be to allow decisions to be made within regions defined by a hospital’s service area. After all, the primary consideration in your first Executive Order was to make sure we did not overwhelm the capacity of our health system. This would provide for a more nimble response in the event of a recurrence of the disease.

Either way, I cannot but oppose your “Restore Illinois” plan as currently proposed. The economy of the 63rd district is made up of hard-working entrepreneurs, small businesses and restaurants, all of which are strangling from the effects of a one-size-fits-all solution. The people of this District understand the situation, and are fully capable of making sensible choices that are in their own interests and the interests of their neighbors. McHenry County cannot remain closed until Chicago recovers. We will not allow our hands to be tied. That’s a simple fact that cannot be ignored.

I hope that you will consider what I’ve said in the spirit in which it is given, because it was said with the sincere hope that we may soon see the end of this and move on to find solutions to the other problems that plague our State. I’m happy to talk with you at any time.

Very truly yours,

Steven Reick

State Representative District 63