Two state lawmakers on Thursday called for public hearings on the state’s COVID-19 response, saying it’s time for legislators to “have a seat at the table” in the decision-making process for mitigating the spread of the virus in Illinois.
Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said public hearings could help “shed light on many questions” lawmakers and their constituents have about the state’s mitigation measures.
“It’s only appropriate that business owners and the people of Illinois are provided with complete transparency,” Rezin said. “I understand the seriousness of this pandemic, and I do not take it lightly, but the reality is we’re eight months into the pandemic and the General Assembly should have a say, and a seat at the table, and be allowed to have hearings and ask questions.”
For Rezin, those questions include how is the state’s contact tracing program going and whether federal money the state received through a coronavirus relief package has trickled down to local health departments.
The senator from Morris also pointed to an outbreak at the state’s LaSalle Veterans Home as a reason to have hearings so “we can have a back-and-forth dialogue” about what’s going on at the northern Illinois veterans home where 130 residents and staff have tested positive for the virus and seven have died.
Rezin said the mitigation measures in place “single out” the state’s hospitality industry, namely bars and restaurants, which account for “very few” outbreaks and go against the governor’s previous virus resurgence plans, which reduced indoor dining without completely banning it.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has previously pointed to “dozens of studies” that indicate bars and restaurants have proven to be fertile grounds for COVID-19 transmission.
The two lawmakers sent letters to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon on Wednesday. There has not been a response yet.
Ford commended Pritzker for the mitigation efforts his administration has put in place, but said given the financial impact the virus has had on the state, there needs to be an all-hands-on-deck approach to deal with the impact the virus is having on businesses, schools and those in the criminal justice system.
“We need to make sure that we have these hearings to bring people to the table, so that we could take advice from them on how to help them in their industry,” Ford said.
The Chicago Democrat said the postponement of the Legislature’s veto session shouldn’t stop the hearing process.
Firmly in the midst of a second wave, the state has seen several days of record numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Pritzker and state health officials have implemented mitigation measures in all of the state’s regions to try to curb the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, state health officials reported 12,702 more people have tested positive while hospitals across the state remain packed with the most COVID-19 patients they’ve ever seen.