As the state enters into Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said residents should take this opportunity to return to the local businesses they know and love, but they also should continue adhering to public safety guidelines.
Friday marked the first day of Phase 4, which allows for indoor dining and the reopening of movie theaters, health clubs and gyms, museums, zoos, recreation businesses, retail shops and manufacturing businesses, according to the governor’s five-phase COVID-19 response plan.
“We went to Phase 4, on schedule because the people of McHenry County took this pandemic seriously from the start – they wore masks, physically distanced, and followed other state and federal health and safety guidelines,” Franks said in a news release sent Friday. “To keep on this track, it’s important that we stay vigilant and not get lax now that more businesses and leisure activities have reopened.”
Residents are encouraged to support their favorite local shops and restaurants but should continue to practice social distancing and should wear face coverings while in public spaces where maintaining a distance of 6 feet might not be possible, according to the release. Frequent hand-washing also is advised in the next phase.
Franks urged residents to donate to local food pantries and charities, as these organizations still are seeing a large, unprecedented surge in the need for services.
McHenry County Department of Health Director of Nursing Susan Karras posted a Facebook video Friday thanking residents for doing their part in the fight against COVID-19 and encouraging them to stay safe.
“We are working together to keep McHenry County safe,” Karras said in the video. “... Keep up the good work.”
Testing, contact tracing and other safety measures will be vital in ensuring that McHenry County does not see a spike in COVID-19 cases with the beginning of Phase 4, according to the MCDH.
“Coronavirus cases are surging in other states where restrictions were lifted too early or were not enforced,” Franks said in the release. “Illinois has avoided that fate.”
Phase 4 of Restore Illinois limits gatherings to a maximum of 50 people and requires indoor businesses to operate at 50% capacity, which Pritzker said is subject to change based on how the state’s COVID-19 metrics look in the coming weeks.
“COVID-19 has inflicted great economic harm on our residents and our businesses,” Franks said. “It is vital that we continue to follow [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines to prevent a second wave here and cause them further harm.”
The county has made a number of resources available to local families who may be struggling as a result of the pandemic. Residents who need help with food, rent or utility payments, unemployment services, mental health services or business assistance should visit the COVID-19 community resources page on McHenry County’s website.
Resources specifically tailored to local businesses and their employees can be found on the website of Resume McHenry County, a task force designed to advise county officials on the reopening process.
McHenry County has provided residents with a 90-day grace period on the first installment of this year’s property taxes and has automatically renewed the applications of all homeowners who receive the senior property tax freeze or tax exemptions for disabled people or disabled veterans.
The County Board also has loosened regulations on local businesses to support them in this challenging time, according to the release.