EDWARDSVILLE — After approval of the Madison County Board of Health’s plan to reopen the county’s economy amidst Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s phased reopening plan, Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton talked about what this “rift” means for city residents and business owners.
He said he had discussions with his various departments Tuesday night and Wednesday and acted on advice from City Attorney Jeff Berkbigler. While he and other city officials are sympathetic to business closures around town and the losses that owners and employees have endured, Patton remains neutral about telling business owners what to do.
“I’m in no position to advise businesses to open or close,” he said. “They need to consult their own attorneys and insurance companies.”
The city, however, will not follow the county’s lead. Instead, he said, it will follow the governor’s executive orders, until and unless the state attorney general decides those orders are unworkable. He said he took part in a conference call from Springfield Wednesday and the governor’s office made it clear that businesses that disobey the governor’s plan risk losing future state funding and may lose their business licenses.
Pritzker echoed that Wednesday during his daily pandemic briefing, saying there will be consequences for those who violate the state’s guidelines.
“For the small minority of businesses that choose to ignore the medical doctors and the data, and to ignore your legal obligations to residents of your community, there will be consequences,” he said.
Those include revocation of licenses for those businesses and professionals licensed by the state.
While the city could levy additional fines or fees for businesses that deviate from the state’s reopening plan, Patton said there is no plan to do so. He said city residents must make their own judgments and “need to do what they feel comfortable doing to keep themselves safe.”
As a dentist and health care provider, Patton said he is pleased with the focus on infection control with this virus — hand-washing often, social distancing and avoiding people who are visibly ill — though he emphasized that he’s not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease expert.
Patton said he intends to abide by the medical oath — do no harm.
The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce issued an e-newsletter Tuesday night to its members with information and advice.
“While we expect that business owners’ decisions to open will vary based on a number of considerations, the chamber reiterates that all businesses should consult their legal counsel and insurance provider(s) to identify real and potential liabilities and have a re-opening standard operating procedure (SOP) in place, including detailed safety precautions to protect both employees and customers, prior to opening their doors,” the statement reads. “And, if you have a state-issued license, know that you are operating in defiance of the governor’s executive order.”
Patton said with such an overwhelming majority vote, it’s clear that the county council knows many businesses in the area on the brink and the county wants to do what it can to help them.
Several local businesses posted to their Facebook pages overnight Wednesday about the county’s decision. Below are some of their thoughts:
“Cleveland Heath wants to let our amazing community know the restaurant will continue to follow our curbside/to-go operations (no dine-in). Your safety and our staff’s safety and health are the most important things to all of us,” wrote owners Keith and Kari McGinness. “We will maintain our current protocols and procedures as we have been. We will continue to monitor medical professional’s opinions and statistics throughout this process and adjust as we see fit.”
“North Main Diner will continue to operate under the State of Illinois guidelines as set forth from the governor’s office. Take out and curbside only — no dine-in,” wrote owner Becky Hamiti. “For the time being, there is too much at risk for you and us, including our license and insurance and we are not willing to take that risk.”
“We at 222 Artisan Bakery will continue as we have for these past several weeks,” said owner Kim Goodner. “Our door is open but only for carryout, curbside and delivery. Please be patient. We know it has been difficult, but let’s do this the right way. We do not wish to put our employees or you at risk. We will also continue the free baked oatmeal and books for the kids at the door. And on a step toward our old menu, this Saturday, we are bringing back Biscuits and Gravy and the Dunn Deal.”
“I fully agree that some small businesses should open back up and have the capabilities of opening safely and with accordance to health guidelines but I won’t go back to work until I know that my license won’t be taken away or receive fines for defying an order,” Kari Eaker-Overholtz posted, owner of Eaker’s Family Barber Shop.
“We are letting all members know that E’ville Fitness will not be opening for business under the Madison County resolution,” wrote owner Carie Terry. “We know this is disappointing, for us and for you; however, as highlighted in the county’s own resolution, we risk both our business license and our insurance coverage if we defy the state order. We are not willing to take that risk. As of right now, it is looking like an early June opening is possible.”
Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 192 coronavirus deaths, the highest in a 24-hour period since the start of the outbreak, with a total of 3,792 deaths.
Reach reporter Charles Bolinger at (618) 659-5735