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Local

What would it take to re-open DeKalb County under Gov. Pritzker's new plan?

Rep. Jeff Keicher says further details are needed regarding Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan

A sign that reads open for business in the window of Common Grounds in DeKalb Monday April 13, 2020. The signs were distributed by local chamber's of commerce to promote small business and let people know some establishments are still open during the coronavirus quarantine.
A sign that reads open for business in the window of Common Grounds in DeKalb Monday April 13, 2020. The signs were distributed by local chamber's of commerce to promote small business and let people know some establishments are still open during the coronavirus quarantine.

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Under Gov. JB Pritzker’s new plan to restore Illinois and find a new normal following the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants, schools and child care facilities would not reopen until the number of DeKalb County residents who test positive for COVID-19 is 20% or lower than the number of tests conducted daily.

Currently, the DeKalb County Health Department does not report local testing data daily, only once a week. As of May 1, 879 tests have come back negative locally. That means that as of Tuesday, as the positive test count rose to 140, a little more than 1,000 tests have been administered to date (using the most available data) out of the county’s nearly 105,000 population.

In an email newsletter Tuesday evening, a statement released by the county health department said the department had not yet received additional information about the plan beyond what Pritzker announced in his daily news conference.

“At this time, this is the most current information the local health departments have received. As new guidance is given, we will share the information,” the statement reads.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said Tuesday afternoon that he was “still digesting” Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.

“What I was disappointed in is that he didn’t give us an early glimpse,” Keicher said. “But I’m glad we have a plan, and I look forward to seeing what those triggers are for each of the phases.”

Keicher said he’s concerned that the legislature has not yet been called back into session, but said he was pleased to see the governor’s plan include a framework for what could reopen and when.

“We are being called upon daily by our constituents to step up and not only provide answers but help provide solutions and direction,” Keicher said. “And we are currently cut out of this process.”

Under the governor’s plan, the state has been divided into different regions, which will be allowed to move forward as a whole provided they meet certain criteria for entering the next phase, which would allow offices, salons and other businesses to reopen to the public and gatherings of 10 or fewer, provided face coverings are worn.

Restaurants, schools and retail businesses would be the last to reopen, provided testing is made available to all.

The North Central region spans from McDonough and McLean counties north to the Illinois/Wisconsin border, excluding the Chicago area. It includes: Bureau, DeKalb, La Salle, Lee, Ogle, Whiteside, Carroll, Boone, Winnebago, Stephenson, Putnam and Jo Daviess counties.

DeKalb County also would need to go 28 days without an overall increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions, and have at least 14% of all hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators available for surge capacity.

It’s unclear where the county stands on any of those criteria, although representatives and nurses from Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital have declared they feel the hospital is prepared in the event of a surge.

Testing is not yet available to all in the county, but is being conducted at Northwestern Medicine health system hospitals and private lab facilities, including through Physicians Immediate Care and the Center for Family Health in Sycamore. Those facilities are prioritizing high-risk patients, first responders and health care workers and those experiencing severe symptoms.

Keicher said he hopes further details surrounding the plan will be announced, including additional steps to protect workers who are out of a job and not eligible to receive unemployment aid.

“I think we need to look at things like the minimum age mandate, enhanced access to government services, protecting unemployment insurance benefits, allowing for the creation of a business loan program and standardizing what essential businesses are.”

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