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Stay-At-Home Divide Causing Tension Along Illinois-Wisconsin Border

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The debate over stay-at-home orders appears to be reaching a boiling point. Just 24 hours after Wisconsin's Supreme Court threw out that state's order, the debate is leading to tension on the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

While other border counties opted to issue their own restrictions, Walworth County is letting businesses reopen. It's an easy walk to Illinois from Walworth County. But the story there is much different.

"You know, this our dream, this is our livelihood, this is our everything," said Diana Reed, owner of Harper G! Mercantile in the heart of downtown Richmond, Illinois. "It's devastating."

And for two months her heart has been heavy as she has been trying to save her business. Her business in McHenry County is grouped with Cook County in Region 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois Plan. Because of that there is no reopening in sight.

"I feel like if we can't figure out a way around this, if we can't get away from Chicago, this is going to be a ghost town," Reed explained.

But just minutes from Richmond, across the Wisconsin border in Genoa City, the mood is much different.

"Come down to SpoonDoggers, have a drink or get something to eat!," said SpoonDoggers owner Joshua Spooner.

Spooner is busy restocking his tavern after Wednesday's surprise announcement and getting regulars and visitors from neighboring counties taking advantage of Walworth County's decision to keep businesses open.

"It's nothing new to us to keep a clean area," he said. "I think any business can open responsibly. I just hope that they're allowed to. A lot of people out there are hurting right now."

Reed said she and others are trying their best to forge ahead.

"I know they're all going to go up there, and the shops up there are going to do way better than we're going to do here. I'm glad they have business. I'm glad they're open, but it's just not right. It's just not right," she said. 

Walworth County, Wisconsin, has had 240 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. By comparison, McHenry County has over 1,000 cases and 56 deaths.

Business owners in Walworth County said they received a 38-page guide from the county with instructions for different types of businesses.

At one bar CBS 2 visited, for example, the tables were six feet apart. Sanitizer was at the front door, and servers were required to wear masks and gloves.

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