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Madison County board votes to reopen despite statewide stay-at-home order

The guidelines approved by the Madison County board say the new rules would take effect Wednesday

MADISON COUNTY, Ill — The Madison County Board voted to reopen the county starting Wednesday, in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's statewide stay-at-home order.

The resolution supporting a four-phase plan estimated to start Wednesday and continue through June passed easily through the board Tuesday evening.

The resolution was passed by the 29-person board in a virtual meeting streamed by the county with just two members voting "no". The guidelines say businesses in the county may reopen, with some limited to 25% capacity. That includes retail shops, salons, gyms and theaters. The guidelines also allow places of worship to reopen with 50% occupancy.

State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, who was in the virtual meeting Tuesday night, emphasized that the resolution approved guidelines, which were not legally enforceable. He said it was unclear if the county's resolution will supersede Governor J.B. Pritzkers' stay at home order, and said a court ruling would likely decide.

The guidelines approved by the county say business owners may be at risk if they decide to reopen, however. 

"These recommendations establish what we believe is a responsible path forward for our county to begin reopening," the guidelines state. "It does not guarantee any reopening outside of the emergency orders issued by the state of Illinois. Doing so may cause a business owner to lose its state or federal licensing and/or liability insurance coverage."

The owner of an Edwardsville yoga studio said even though the resolution allows her to open at 25% occupancy, she's keeping her doors closed.

"I do understand why some businesses might want to take the risk because they're out of jobs," Alexis Young of Vive Yoga Studio said.

Young said online classes are working well for her business, so she's going to follow the governor's phased reopening plan.

"Because some people don't feel that it's safe to go back out," she said. 

Madison County has reported 33 COVID-19 deaths and 446 confirmed cases.

Officials are asking residents to do their part and take all necessary precautions to ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone. 

Leaders said it’s important that business owners begin to prepare to reopen and that businesses should have an emergency plan in place in case there’s a second wave of the virus outbreak.

Pritzker addressed areas like Madison County pushing for reopening in his press briefing Tuesday afternoon. He said he would consider withholding state funds from counties that don't follow statewide orders.

"I would just suggest to all of them that they are putting the patrons of their businesses and the people who live in their counties or in their cities in danger when they simply break the rules, break the law, in fact, and they decide that they want to go it alone. We are one Illinois," Pritzker said.

The county has released its phased initiative to reopen. Each phase should last about two weeks as long as data shows citizens health trending in a healthy direction.

You can read the full guidelines below.

RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR THE RESPONSIBLE 

REOPENING OF MADISON COUNTY

Madison County is committed to reopening its business community and getting residents back to work in a safe and responsible manner. While at the same time, we are asking citizens to do their part to take all necessary precautions to ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone. During each phase of these guidelines, Madison County will continue to monitor the status of its impact in coordination with the local health department and staff. As with any plan, the elements presented here, include timelines and are subject to change without notice.

It is imperative that all business owners pre-plan for any reopening.  They must have a structured plan to deal with an unexpected surge in customers or clients in their respective businesses.  They should be completely familiar with all CDC and the local health guidelines prior to opening to ensure the safest operation possible.  Owners should have an emergency contingency plan in place in the event of a virus outbreak affecting their business which includes at a minimum notification of such to the Local Health Department and the County Board of Health.

All citizens have the ultimate responsibility to follow local guidelines with respect to social distancing and other safety practices set forth.  If any business owner feels uncomfortable about opening their business, we recommend you remain closed. We urge you to use your best judgement regarding your personal situation.  No one is required to open a business if they feel it is in their best interest to remain closed.  We also recommend that you use that same discernment with your employees, especially any employee who may be part of a vulnerable group, or reside with someone who is part of a vulnerable group.

We can all do our part by practicing preventive measures, such as:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid contact with sick people if possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces
  • Ensure to maintain at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals
  • Stay home should you have a fever or otherwise feel unwell

These recommendations establish what we believe is a responsible path forward for our county to begin reopening. It does not guarantee any reopening outside of the emergency orders issued by the state of Illinois. Doing so may cause a business owner to lose it’s state or federal licensing and/or liability insurance coverage.

The following recommendations apply to all phases as follows:

  • All businesses and other locations open to the public are recommended to follow the guidelines of the CDC, including but not limited to: the reasonable use of face masks, proper sanitation, appropriate social distancing and monitoring of employee’s temperatures at the beginning of the shift. 
  • Family members who are sheltering in the same residence may visit or participate in public activities together without restriction on their number count.
  • All occupancy count shall be calculated using the total occupancy limits of any building open to the public as determined by the local fire marshal.
  • Any business owner who is uncomfortable with opening or moving to the next phase should continue to remain closed or remain in the phase they are currently in. 
  • All county residents who have been defined by the CDC as a vulnerable group should continue to adhere to the CDC recommendations and limitations on social interaction.

PHASE 1 (estimated May 13 – May 27, 2020)

  1. Nonessential travel may resume.
  2. Avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people.
  3. Retail business may open with a 25% occupancy.
  4. Restaurants/Bars may continue to prepare and serve food for off-premise consumption while serving through means such as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through service and curbside pick-up. Additionally, patrons may be seated dining at a rate of 25% occupancy.
  5. Personal Care Providers (such as hair, nail, massage, etc.) may reopen. When possible limit customers by appointment only.
  6. Professional Services (such as banking, accounting) may reopen. When possible limit customers by appointment only.
  7. While the Madison County Board of Health recognizes the constitutional limitation we have to regulate attendance and religious freedom, churches and other places of worship may open with a 50% occupancy.
  8. Childcare facilities may reopen. All food preparation surfaces, handles, knobs and common surfaces shall be sanitized before and after each use. Continual cleaning of surfaces used by employees and children is encouraged.
  9. Gyms, exercise facilities and other indoor recreation spaces may reopen at 25% occupancy. Equipment should be maintained according to local health department guidelines.
  10. Public parks, golf courses, campgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools and other outdoor recreation spaces may reopen. Distancing between family members is at their discretion. Golf carts can have an occupancy of two people or more if designed for extra passengers. It is suggested that one bring sanitizing wipes for common items (items open to use by all visitors such as playground equipment). The bleacher section must follow social distancing guidelines. Personal seating may be used, but social distancing guidelines must be maintained.
  11. Theatres, museums and bowling alleys may reopen at 25% occupancy.

PHASE 2 (estimated May 28 - June 12, 2020)

If after 14 days of following the Phase 1 guidelines, and Madison County Health Department assessment of COVID19 cases presenting for hospitalization remain sufficiently below the hospitals ability to treat the cases, the following practices shall be in place in addition to the above stated openings:

  1. Avoid social gatherings of 50 or more people.
  2. Retail business may open with a 50% occupancy.
  3. Restaurants/Bars may continue to prepare and serve food for off-premise consumption while serving through means such as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through service and curbside pick-up. Additionally, patrons may be seated dining at a rate of 50% occupancy
  4. Churches and other places of worship may open with a 75% occupancy.
  5. Concessions at athletic events may be reopened.

PHASE 3 (estimated June 13 - June 27, 2020)

If after 14 days of following the Phase 2 guidelines, and Madison County Health Department assessment of COVID19 cases presenting for hospitalization remain sufficiently below the hospitals ability to treat the cases, the following practices shall be in place in addition to the above stated openings:

  1. Avoid social gatherings of 150 or more people.
  2. Retail business may open with a 75% occupancy.
  3. Restaurants/Bars may continue to prepare and serve food for off-premise consumption while serving through means such as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through service and curbside pick-up. Additionally, patrons may be seated dining at a rate of 75% occupancy.
  4. churches and other places of worship may open with a 100% occupancy.

PHASE 4 (estimated June 27, 2020)

If after 14 days of following the Phase 3 guidelines, and Madison County Health Department assessment of COVID19 cases presenting for hospitalization remain sufficiently below the hospitals ability to treat the cases, the following practices shall be in place in addition to the above listed openings:

 Open Madison County completely as long as data evaluation suggests it continues to be safe. These recommendations may change if data suggests a reevaluation is warranted.

As long as there is not a vaccine or permanent cure for COVID-19, it’s recommended all residents follow CDC guidelines and continue to take all reasonable precautions to protect themselves and others to minimize the spread of this virus.

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