Coronavirus Illinois: Springfield protest calls for state to reopen economy amid COVID-19 pandemic

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Protesters in Springfield gathered outside the Illinois State Capitol demanding the state's stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID-19 come to an end.

The protest follows a growing trend of protesters around the country pushing for the same. Many say the need to get back to work to earn a living has become critical.

Residents in five states, including Illinois, held protests demanding their governors open up their states.

Protesters in Springfield shouted "Open Illinois" at the steps of the Lincoln Statue as part of the national "Operation Gridlock" movement.

For weeks, non-essential businesses, including restaurants across Chicago shut their doors as tens of thousands in the state filed for unemployment. Protesters argue extending the state stay-at-home order would devastate our state.

"I want people to get back to work. I want people to go back to school. I want us to have a great summer and so I am looking for all the best ways to make that happen, but it's like nothing we've seen in our lifetimes* )

Governor Pritzker said he sympathizes but explained keeping things locked down protects everyone's safety. He also stressed he consults with health experts daily about how restrictions can be loosened safely.

The Illinois stay-at-home continues through at least the end of the month, possibly longer.

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said local restaurants and employees have been hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions.

"Restaurants are down 80% in sales," Toia said.

What it will look like when the state decides to reopen restaurants has yet to be determined.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said it won't be as simple as flicking a switch. More discussions with state and city leaders need to happen first.

"We care about the health and safety of our customers and our team members, number one, but we got to also think when we roll this out, what's best for our customers, for our team members, and for the restaurant and their economic model," Toia said.

The call to reopen the state comes days after President Trump and the White House laid out plans for individual states to reopen businesses in three graduated phases.
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