The release of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's plan to reopen Illinois' economy did little to soothe some Kane County residents frustrated by the ongoing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a video chat with government officials Tuesday night, about 30 residents decried job losses and the disruption of being in isolation when they don't feel sick. The event was the second of three similar programs county board Chairman Chris Lauzen is hosting for residents who want to explain their shutdown hardships to public officials.
The meeting came just hours after Pritzker released his plan to reopen the state in five phases. The plan divides the state into four regions, recognizing that the virus affects each area differently. Kane County residents told county officials they don't want to be lumped into the same region as Chicago or Cook County to reach milestones in declining infections.
Just like last week, many residents also said they don't trust government data on COVID-19 cases and deaths.
One caller repeated a debunked, viral social media post that told people the CDC revised the number of COVID-19 deaths, cutting them in half. The CDC has not revised its numbers of COVID cases or deaths down since the outbreak began. The confusion stemmed from a social media poster taking week-old data from a site with an ongoing lag behind the CDC's official count.
Other callers said having to wear masks outside is a violation of their freedoms. Mary Patterson, from North Aurora, said the requirement to wear a mask as an employee of a home improvement store forced her into an unpaid leave of absence.
"Medically, I can't wear a face-covering," she said. "I went to work every day during the height of this pandemic. I did not wear a mask. I'm not sick. This is America. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. Don't tell me what I have to do. Allow me the freedom to earn a paycheck."
Others were concerned the masks they can get aren't effective. They called on Pritzker to obtain and distribute N95 masks.
Residents diagnosed with the virus also are critical of the plan. Enoch Essendrop said he and one of his sisters were diagnosed with the virus in March. Even while his sister is still recovering, Essendrop said the lockdown continues to do more harm than good.
"The federal government handing out money is causing my family members to not seek work," he said. "They are getting paid more to sit home and watch Netflix. The government has given them an incentive to stay home and do nothing. The virus has touched my family, but I have rights as a citizen that supersede other people's health."
There will be a final public video discussion for citizens with county officials at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday.
Lauzen said he will push a county board resolution next week to block Coroner Rob Russell from publishing his weekly COVID-19 death stats in the county's official newsletter. Russell includes all deaths from the virus in the county, not just the deaths of county residents. That's different from how the county's health department reports the numbers. Lauzen believes that's sowing distrust in local data.
The county also formed a task force to apply to the federal government for any relief funds. The task force will also ensure that any spending of money the county gets is in line with directives by the treasury department.