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Randolph County requests Gov. Pritzker to reopen businesses

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CHESTER (WSIL) -- Leaders in Randolph County are asking the governor to reopen its businesses soon.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to send Gov. JB Pritzker a letter in a special meeting Tuesday morning. Chairman Dave Holder says the county is on track to lose about 20% of it's sales tax revenue.

"We'll go into a deficit," Holder said. "How that's going to be filled at this point in time I simply do not have an answer."

COVID-19 rocked the county in April, forcing the closure of Gilster-Mary Lee's facilities in Chester and Steeleville for two weeks. Holder believes the company can be an example of how the county can safely reopen.

"[Gilster-Mary Lee] has done a very good job in order to minimize potential infections and to my knowledge we have sufficient testing going on," Holder said.

So far, county health officials have conducted 1,353 tests with 248 confirmed cases. The county's positivity rate is 18.3%. While the county is confident it can reopen, some businesses are still nervous about the possibility.

Maria Rafael, owner of Tico's Tacos, likes the idea but says the health and safety of customers and employees should remain the priority.

But Jason King, owner of Muddy River Coffee, feels it's time to get people back to work. He thinks the letter gives a voice to people in Southern Illinois who feel ignored by the governor.

Holder thinks the governor should revisit his plan, adding it's not too soon to reopen the county's economy.

"I know the governor probably did the best he could at the time he could," Holder said. "I think it's always necessary to continue to review these items and see if they're still applicable."


"As an essential food production industry, Gilster-Mary Lee has adopted industry best safety practices to continue to provide food  to consumers in the US and other countries in this very difficult time.   

We are sure the Randolph County Board did not take their decision to approach the Governor about reopening lightly.   There are many public health and economic factors they no doubt considered.   We do agree that the sooner an economic recovery can safely begin, the better things will be long term for our communities and region.

We have learned that guidance from government, industry associations, and medical and health professionals has evolved over the past months.  Whenever a business makes a decision to open or increase their existing services, they should seek out guidance on those measures that are recommended or required for their particular type of business and stay up to date on any changes.   A clothing store faces different issues than a restaurant, which are different from those at a hair salon or barber shop.   Thankfully there is a lot of information already available on line from various industry groups and state and Federal agencies.   We are certainly all in this together, and it’s good to see businesses and government working in partnership to get through the initial crisis, prepare for what may still be ahead, and work to keep our local and national economy moving forward."

Tom Welge, Vice President Technical Sales & General Counsel, Gilster Mary Lee

Danny Valle

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