Three phases are better and quicker than five when it comes to reopening the area’s economy struck hard by state-mandated lockdowns for the Coronavirus Pandemic.


That is the idea behind the “Back to Business Plan” that is gaining support many parts of downstate Illinois. The plan, offered by Illinois lawmaker Blaine Wilhour and others, differs from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” Plan, which has been criticized for having five phases and slower schedule for allowing most businesses and public activities to resume. But the proposal can face legal and liability issues (See related story).


Back to Business provisions would allow a quicker reopening of many businesses than the Governor’s plan presented on May 5. The alternative plan, supported by Effingham County Board last week and other local government officials, would allow more businesses to reopen with certain health safety restrictions, but it does not allow all commercial and public activities to start again for now.


The Governor’s reopening plan would require 28 days before moving to the next phase with progress on reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths, while the Back to Business would only require 14 days before moving to different phases with required improvements on COVID-19. Both plans call for maintaining the safety of the elderly and people at high risk from COVID-19 and encourage anyone ill to stay home from work or going out in the public.


Phase I of the plan calls for retailers, restaurants and eating establishments with bars to reopen with only 50 percent of capacity allowed and masks worn by all employees. All businesses would follow social distancing for customers and workstations. In addition, frequent sanitizing of surfaces, especially those contacted by the public, will be required for businesses opening under this plan.


There will be temperature checks for employees and those with a temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit would be sent home. The temperature checks on employees would apply to all categories of the Back to Business Plan.


The restaurant rules would also prohibit live entertainment, no enclosed waiting areas, limits on family tables, no self-service of any type, regular menus replaced by items online, disposal menus or posted in high-profile locations. Disposable tablecloths and protective screens for employees would be used where possible.


Businesses that derive their primary income from the sale of alcoholic beverages will not be allowed to open during this phase.


Manufacturing, construction, service Industry and other businesses will continue operations with emphasis on temperature monitoring of workers at the start of the day and four hours later, adhering to social distancing and wiping down machine controls, door knobs and handles of appliances or tools before and after being touched.


Hair and tanning salons would be open by appointment only and nail services would not be available for now. Massage services would be offered through a doctor’s order. There would be precautions for banks, accounting firms and other professional services with similar requirements for other businesses, including employee temperature check, protective screens, customer social distancing and employees wearing masks. The mask rule in banks might produce some jokes about an “inside job” on robberies.


Places of Worship will be allowed to hold services at 25 percent capacity to ensure safe social distancing among the congregations. Distancing between family members will be their decision. Disposable hymn handouts will prevent the spread of the virus as well as no church greeters and no passing of offering baskets among the attendees. Organized dismissal is recommended, and self-contained communion practices will be allowed.


Churches facing problems with some of the rules are recommended to continue virtual worship through the internet or other electronic venues.


Gyms and exercise facilities can reopen at 25 percent capacity with patrons working out within six feet of each other with that distance required for workout equipment as well. No waiting rooms or steam room facilities will be provided. Any tanning services will be by appointment only.


Daycare facilities can operate at 100 percent capacity relating to Department of Children and Family Services requirements. There will be temperature checks for employees and children as social distancing and modification of pick-up and drop-off scheduling.


Public parks, private campgrounds, drive-in theaters and golf courses will be open in Phase I with required social distancing of six feet and occupancy limited to two in golf cart (private golf cart use will be limited to immediate household members). Public-use carts should be sanitized before between uses when rented. It is recommended to avoid contact with playground equipment or bathroom surfaces unless you bring sanitizing wipes.


Many public venues, including dance halls, gaming facilities, indoor theaters, public pools, will remain closed. Drive-by celebrations, visits and events will be allowed with no contact between attendees. Authorization may be required for larger events. Contact sports, sports camps or summer camps will not be allowed in Phase I.


In 14 days, Phase II would start if COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization remain well below the local hospital’s capacity and other indicators of lower risk from the virus, along with the Effingham County Health Department’s approval.


This phase will allow retailers to allow customers totaling 75 percent capacity, and bars and taverns will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity. Several safety rules will remain from Phase I, ranging from temperature monitoring and masks for employees, no contact menus and no self-service.


Hair, nail and tanning salons will be allowed to open with capacity restrictions and continued use of masks and customer appointments as well as social distancing. Day Care facilities will continue at full capacity with safety rules still in place from Phase I.


Places of worship will be allowed to have 50 percent capacity under Phase II with continued safety rules on disposable hymn handouts, no greeters and other precautions against potential physical contact. Many similar rules will remain for parks, campgrounds and golf courses as well as manufacturing, construction and service industries.


Theaters, concert halls and outdoor concerts or community events will reopen, but with limited capacity – 50 percent for theaters and concert halls and no more than 25 attendees at outdoor events and private events, including garage and yard sales, with social distancing followed. Gaming facilities, dance halls and public pools will remain closed along with contact sports, sports camps or summer camps.


In Phase III, movie theaters, public pools and summer sport leagues will open again. Theaters will be limited to 75 percent capacity, similar to the new limits for places of worship, retailers and personal service businesses. Attendance limits for outdoor concerts or events will increase to 50 people. Contact sports and summer camps and sports camps will still be closed. Temperature monitoring, social distancing and many other safety practices will still apply to the different categories already opened in the earlier stages.


Phase III will end when the following goals are reached:


1) No resurgence of COVID-19 cases.


2) No additional outbreaks in respective jurisdictions.


3) COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization remain stable.


4) Public health and healthcare systems continue to meet the needs of the community at-large, plans will be reviewed allowing greater movement within communities participating in the regional reopen strategy.


The Back to Business Plan does not rule out reversing back to phases if medical data and metrics show a decline in the conditions necessary for maintaining public health. Another recommendation in the Plan is residents maintain a “Daily Contact Diary” for any individuals they interacted within Illinois counties. This would help public health officials with contact tracing for tracking any future spread of the disease.