‘Why is it OK for your family to travel but not us?’: Illinois Gov. Pritzker answers questions about coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

CHICAGO  — Illinois has reached the requirements to move into Phase 3 of Gov. JB Prizker’s reopening plan starting on May 29.

During this phase, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open their outdoor dining spaces, salons and tattoo shops can also reopen — as well as other non-essential businesses, including retail stores.

Gatherings of 10 people or less will also be permitted.

In Chicago, that won’t be the case. Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn’t think the city will be ready for outdoor restaurant dining, despite the governor’s plan. Lightfoot said she wants a more robust plan in place, and hopes to be ready to reopen in June.

Gov. Pritzker joined WGN Morning News Friday via Skype to talk more of Illinois’ reopening plan, and also answered some viewer questions regarding the pandemic.

Viewer Question 1:

Why does it take over 200 tries a day for 2 weeks to get through to the unemployment office? You just get a message saying they can’t answer your call now, then hang up

Pritzker:

Well there are people who’ve run into this problem. I can tell you we’ve processed about 1.2 million applications to make sure people get the support they need. I know there are cases people are just having a difficult time getting a hold of somebody. Look, 10 years ago they built this online system. It essentially broke from 20 times the number of applicants applying at once. And then, as we were fixing that, there just weren’t enough phone lines. Remember, the economy was really good just a few months ago. Nobody ever expected that we’d ever have a problem like we’re having now, which is devastating financially for so many people. So what we’ve done is expanded the number of phone lines, expanded the number of people answering those phone lines. We are some what limited, because the federal government has a lot of training requirements that takes months for people to get up and running for someone who can answer a phone and take private information from applicants. We’re working hard to fix it as we go. Like I said it’s like trying to fly a plane and build it at the same time. I know there are people who are frustrated. What my suggestion is, is first go to your state rep or state senator, we’re working with all of those constituent service offices to try and make sure we’re dealing with each case one and one. And keep trying. If you can file online, that’s the best way to do it.

Viewer Question 2:

Everyone is wondering what the thoughts are for school this fall. Staggered schedule with part e-learning or ALL e-learning? The CDC guidelines just don’t seem realistic for most public schools.

Pritzker:

Well I’m determined to do everything we can to open up the schools in the fall. We obviously want to be prepared in the event there’s a surge or something that prevents us from opening schools. We want to do everything we can to put e-learning in place in places where it didn’t exist before. Distance learning is enormously important thing anyway, so we should have that no matter if we go back to school or not. But I really want us to get our kids back in school, so that’s what we’re aiming to do in the fall.

Viewer Question 3:

Why is it OK for you and your family to travel to Wisconsin and Florida but you tell us to stay home?

Pritzker:

Well I’m not traveling anywhere, I’ve been here in Illinois the entire time. I haven’t left the state, not once. Indeed I’ve been working every single day, and very long hours. So I don’t know why people are concerned about this. I will tell you my wife and daughter were in Florida before this pandemic hit. I told them to shelter in place, precisely what we were doing here in Illinois. Simply stay home. I didn’t want them traveling, I was concerned about air travel and everything else. So they stayed where they were, and that’s why they were not here in Illinois. Trust me, I missed them terribly. They were gone for seven weeks, they are home now. I’m glad to have them home. But I really don’t think the criticism is fair. I’ve been here the entire time. I’ve worked here with the legislatures, I’ve been talking to them the entire time trying to get the job done. But most of all, keeping people safe and healthy across the state.

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