By BOB RAKOW
March 22, 2020
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Local business and political leaders applauded Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “shelter-in-place” order for the state, which starts at 5 p.m. Saturday through April 7, and is designed to slow the pace of the spread of COVID-19.
“I think it makes perfect sense,” said Downers Grove Mayor Robert Barnett. “I think it’s the right thing to do for now.”
Barnett believes residents will comply with the stay-at-home order.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t see people trying to do the right thing here.” he said.
Under the order, all nonessential businesses must close. Schools in the state will remain closed until April 8, Pritzker said, and that more information on schools will be coming.
Grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, and other essential businesses can remain open. All local roads and tollways will remain open.
Barnett said Downers Grove will continue to provide essential services, but he expressed concern for the village’s financial outlook over the next several months.
Specifically, Downers Grove and other municipalities rely heavily on sales and income taxes to operate. With many businesses closed and some individuals out of work temporarily, municipalities are bound to take a hit, he said.
“This is a financial disaster,” Barnett said. “We don’t operate by borrowing. It’s going to be a challenge.”
State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Downers Grove, reiterated the guidance put forth by health officials over the past several days.
“I think it’s incredibly important that every single one of us non-health care workers does everything in our power to reduce social contact and save lives,” Stava-Murray said. “We’re working as hard as we can to protect our most vulnerable by minimizing our current outbreak and mitigating the recession to the best of our ability.”
Stava-Murray urged people not to panic as food and essential supplies will continue to be available.
“I think the role locally is to continue to emphasize that people should stay home and please do not hoard supplies as families who have not been hoarding [per our recommendation] need to feed their children as well,” she said.
Larry Forssberg, economic development director of the Westmont Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, said he hoped people would react appropriately to the governor’s order.
I’m hoping that this won’t cause a panic, because we can go out next week and pick up groceries and fill up our fuel tank,” Forssberg said. If you need to go to see a doctor, you can make those appointments.”
Forssberg praised Pritzker for the way he explain the rationale behind the executive order.
“The governor started off his presentation really well, talking about his responsibility to take care of the well-being of our state, because without that you don’t have a livelihood,” he said.
Forssberg encouraged the Westmont community to stick together during the pandemic.
“We need to work together as a team,” he said. “We need to support each other. We need to pull together and help each other as needed. “We see people rising up to give a hand and help make a positive difference. And that’s not just happening in Westmont. I’m sure that’s happening all across the country, all across the world.
“We’re seeing local examples of it, just people standing up and saying, ‘How can I help?’ And that quite frankly, it sends chills down my spine that people are willing to think big, think first and foremost of the community, not just themselves.”
Michael Cassa, president and CEO of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corp., supported the executive order as part of the larger effort to overcome the spread of the virus.
“I urge everyone who can to stay home and stay safe,” Cassa said. “No one is immune from this. We are all in this together.”
Cassa’s organization continues to work with the business community, as it strives to weather the many challenges associated with coronavirus.
“We’re very concerned about the business community,” he said, adding that business owners should visit the EDC’s website for information on tax relief and business loans.
The Downers Grove Park District took additional steps following the governor’s order.
In addition to facilities that were already closed last week, the park district will close at 5 p.m. Saturday all playgrounds, courts and sports fields and other areas where group activities and sports typically occur, including the Downers Grove Golf Club and the driving range.
Parks and trails will remain open.
“While our parks and trails will remain open, we ask that residents refrain from using playgrounds, sports fields and courts in order to practice social distancing,” the district said in a news release.
“Enjoy dispersed recreation for your health and safety. It is crucial that you follow CDC recommendations for social distancing due to COVID-19,” according to the statement.
Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said police will enforce Pritzker’s order if they see groups congregating in parks or other parts of the community. Residents will be asked to disperse, however gathering publicly will not be treated as a criminal offense, he said.
“Our role is the enforce the governor’s executive order,” said Weitzel, who added that police will ensure that non-essential businesses remain closed.
Some communities are already following many of the parameters set forth in the executive order.
“We have reviewed the governor’s stay-at-home, social distancing and essential businesses and operations executive order effective from March 21 through April 7 and have determined that the way we are currently operating is within the parameters of the executive order,” Wheaton officials said in a statement. “We will continue to keep city facilities with limited access from the public to ensure we can provide essential city services while protecting the health of our employees and residents.”