Pritzker fights COVID-19 from Chicago, and downstate notices

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has spent countless hours plotting and planning strategy in the state’s race against the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who live in central and southern Illinois have noticed he’s done it almost exclusively from Chicago.

Posted: Apr 16, 2020 2:15 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has spent countless hours plotting and planning strategy in the state’s race against the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who live in central and southern Illinois have noticed he’s done it almost exclusively from Chicago.

Chicago and Cook County account for 70% of the state’s more-than 24,500 infections. But some people — mostly Republicans — complain that he’s neglected the rest of Illinois, even as it shares in the economic pain and social disruption from measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Thursday marked Pritzker’s 40th daily televised update, and the 29th in a row from his office in downtown Chicago.

“They’re small things that people downstate take umbrage to and it’s understandable,” said Rep. Michael Marron, a Republican from Fithian in east-central Illinois.

“I largely support the governor and the actions that he’s taken to keep us safe,” Marron said. “But he can listen to us a little bit better and he could have a better presence down here.”

A one-time Carbondale mayor, Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, understands needing to see the leader during a crisis. But a highly contagious virus is new territory. In this instance, Cole said travel has practical, as well as health, considerations: The politician’s small-town coffee-shop hangout is shuttered.

“The rule book is being written as we go,” Cole said. “We know how to react to tornadoes and floods and fires. No one knew how to react to a pandemic disease.”

Since daily briefings began March 9, Pritzker has made trips in mid-March to Springfield and the Murphysboro area. He closed nonessential businesses and on March 20 issued a stay-at-home order. He has not appeared publicly outside Chicago since.

That makes sense to Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat. He’s sought a halt to unnecessary travel “and he’s doing it as well,” she said. Republican Rep. Avery Bourne of Morrisonville countered that Pritzker can travel because “he said that government is essential work.”

“There’s more to this state than Chicago and there’s more to this crisis and the response than Chicago,” Bourne said. If Pritzker’s stuck in the Loop, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who leads the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, could be proxy, Bourne said.

The Associated Press asked Pritzker on March 29 when he would head south again, presuming he and his staff could avoid illness. He said he’s “not reticent” and promised a trip soon.

“I always love to be in downstate Illinois,” Pritzker said. But with the virus’ brutal attack on the Chicago area, he said, “I’ve tried to make sure that I’ve been on hand to make decisions here.”

Pritzker’s briefings are available statewide and while it’s not his preference, the governor is following his own recommendation by “staying home as much as possible to limit exposure,” spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.

That touches another downstate nerve that has stung for decades: Chicago-based governors who spend too little time in the capital and its Governor’s Mansion. He could be just as effective in Springfield, according to GOP Rep. Terri Bryant of Murphysboro.

“I don’t want him to do a tour around the entire state with an entourage, but I’d like to see him conducting the business of the state at the seat of government,” Bryant said. “It would give everyone in the state access to him instead of just Chicago.”

Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, staring down one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots in Detroit, has worked mostly from the capital, Lansing.

Pritzker has been praised for his responsiveness. Ammons said he quickly stepped up testing in low-income communities requested by the Legislative Black Caucus. While the Illinois Municipal League asked Pritzker for weekly conference calls with the state’s mayors, Cole said they typically happen twice a week with up to 1,000 often fired-up local officials on the line.

“He may be working out of Chicago right now because it is the Illinois epicenter,” Mark Eckert, Belleville’s mayor for 15 years, said. “I would have a problem with that if we weren’t getting answers, weren’t included, never heard his voice.”

___

Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1605320

Reported Deaths: 27132
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61354910964
DuPage1039171357
Will873121089
Lake771121060
Kane65888850
Winnebago39007544
Madison38143576
St. Clair35003569
McHenry33032316
Peoria25972362
Champaign25862182
Sangamon24588271
McLean21879207
Tazewell19736326
Rock Island17806344
Kankakee16784234
Kendall15459106
LaSalle14496275
Macon14478240
Vermilion13234189
Adams12695148
DeKalb11667128
Williamson11419157
Whiteside7897176
Jackson769188
Boone760082
Coles7341112
Ogle713486
Grundy701281
Franklin686899
Clinton681498
Knox6651164
Marion6547138
Macoupin646399
Henry620474
Jefferson6060132
Effingham604382
Livingston571295
Woodford554291
Stephenson546289
Randolph529297
Monroe508199
Christian491780
Fulton487970
Morgan487296
Logan477474
Montgomery467476
Lee458156
Bureau427188
Perry415171
Saline409263
Fayette398956
Iroquois394673
McDonough354956
Jersey322253
Shelby311843
Douglas306636
Crawford304130
Lawrence301131
Union296747
Wayne274057
White265930
Richland262054
Hancock256334
Pike255956
Cass250928
Clark250738
Bond244024
Clay240047
Ford235256
Edgar234744
Carroll225437
Warren224960
Johnson213524
Moultrie211831
Jo Daviess206126
Washington206127
Wabash200915
Greene200739
Mason199351
Massac198144
De Witt195530
Piatt190814
Mercer190634
Cumberland178325
Menard158612
Jasper152418
Marshall134721
Hamilton128821
Brown10178
Pulaski98311
Schuyler9688
Edwards96315
Stark76827
Gallatin7435
Scott6975
Alexander67611
Henderson65114
Calhoun6442
Hardin56013
Putnam5444
Pope4815
Unassigned1882432
Out of IL40

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479