Illinois governor seeks regional cooperation for reopening of economies in Midwest

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking to coordinate some regional cooperation for the reopening of economies throughout the Midwest that would occur after states begin to see their outbreaks fade—and Indiana could be a key part of that conversation.

Pritzker told reporters he has been talking with area governors about the outbreak, although he did not name specific leaders.

Pritzker’s spokeswoman told Crain’s Chicago Business that “the governor is interested in exploring something like what’s happening on the East and West coasts for the Midwest. It would be some sort of regional cooperation.”

A consortium of seven states on the East Coast is working on a plan for how and when to lift restrictions in their geographically aligned states.

Similar conversations are occurring among governors of California, Washington and Oregon, who issued a joint statement on Monday, saying “COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities.”

Holcomb told reporters in a Monday press briefing that he has been close contact with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and has been in conversations involving Pritzker and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “So we’re constantly talking in the Great Lakes region,” he said.

And Holcomb said he has talked specifically with Beshear and DeWine about the regional impact of reopening the economy.

However, Holcomb’s office did not respond to questions Wednesday morning specifically about working with Pritzker or Illinois on a larger, Midwest coalition.

Governors in much of the Midwest ordered restaurants and bars to close in-dining options in mid-March and then non-essential businesses to close and residents to largely stay home in the week or two after.

On Tuesday, Holcomb told reporters the state is seeing results from those weeks of social distancing, which also included closing schools.

“We are flattening the curve,” he said. “We are slowing the spread. It’s making a difference. We are looking right at that surge and trying to suppress it.”

But Holcomb said that health officials won’t be able to reach any conclusions for perhaps a week on how the numbers could go.

On Monday, state health officials had said they expect the surge won’t peak in Indiana until the last week of April or early May.

Reporter John Russell and The Washington Post contributed to this story.

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