New coalition, “Open Safe Illinois,” asks decision makers to put science, safety first when it comes to COVID-19

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Illinois PIRG

A new coalition of health, labor, aging and public interest organizations launched “Open Safe Illinois” on Thursday to amplify the voices of Illinois residents, the majority of whom support public health-driven decision making by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and local leaders. 

While a small, vocal minority has pushed to rapidly reopen businesses and recreational activities across the state, polls show that the majority of the public remain very concerned about the coronavirus, are taking precautions, and support policy informed by the most up-to-date and relevant medical science. While many states are experiencing surges in new infections, Illinois recently had the greatest two-week decline in new cases across the country. According to data compiled by ProPublica, Illinois is the first state to meet all five of the metrics the White House suggested should be required to safely reopen.

“Gov. Pritzker’s measured, public health-driven approach has slowed the spread of COVID-19 and saved lives,” said Tom Hughes, Illinois Public Health Association executive director. “It’s critical that we stay the course and continue to make decisions based on the best available data and public health analysis.”

Illinois can look to other states, many of which just now are reaching their highest rates of infections and deaths, to see what happens if we don’t remain vigilant. Illinoisans, especially frontline workers, older adults, people with existing health conditions, and Latino and African American communities who face disproportionate risks, can’t afford a surge of infection.

The coalition boasts 25 members, including AgeOptions, AIDS Foundation Chicago, Alzheimer’s Association – Illinois Chapter, Business and Professional People in the Public Interest, Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Jobs Council, Citizen Action Illinois, Coalition for the Homeless, Common Cause Illinois, Elevate Energy, Everthrive Illinois, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Heartland Alliance, Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois PIRG, Illinois Public Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, Rainbow Push Coalition, Respiratory Health Association, SEIU HealthCare, Sierra Club Illinois, and United Food and Commercial Workers 881.

“We have not defeated the coronavirus, only slowed its spread,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG director and coalition coordinator. “Until we have an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, which could take years, it’s critical that decision makers stay the course to protect the health and well-being of Illinoisans.”