Residents urged to stay home, but exemptions exist for several essential activities
BY PETER HANCOCK
CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS
Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday issued a “Stay at Home” order throughout Illinois, directing all residents to stay home except to conduct essential business, and all non-essential businesses to stop operations.
The order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Saturday, will extend at least through Tuesday, April 7. It was the latest and most sweeping step the Pritzker administration has taken to slow the spread of the highly-contagious novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, but it does allow several exemptions.
“We have looked closely at the trajectory of this virus in countries like Italy and China. Left unchecked, cases in Illinois will rise rapidly,” Pritzker said during his daily briefing in Chicago. “Hospital systems will be overwhelmed. Protective equipment will become scarce, and we will not have enough health care workers or hospital beds or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients.”
The order came as the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 163 new confirmed cases of the disease and one additional death, bringing the total, as of Friday afternoon, to 585 cases in 25 counties and five related deaths.
The most recent victim was a Cook County resident in her 70s.
Friday’s executive order supersedes a previous executive order that prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more. Prohibited activities include all public gatherings of any number of people outside of a single residence and all gatherings of 10 or more people, unless specifically exempted by the order.
The order also temporarily shutters amusement parks, carnivals, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, playgrounds, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, country clubs and social clubs.
State and local law enforcement officials will have authority to enforce the order. In most cases, Pritzker said, that would involve officers telling people to disburse and go back home. If they don’t, he said, they could be cited for disorderly conduct or other municipal offenses.
However, while the order is in effect, people will be allowed to leave their home for a wide range of other ordinary functions such as seeking medical attention and to acquire necessary supplies and services, including groceries, medicines and supplies that enable them to work from home.
They also will be allowed to leave home for outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, running or walking their dog, provided they maintain at least a six-foot distance from others.
People also may leave their home to take care of others and to perform certain types of work providing essential products and services at essential businesses and operations.
Essential activities include health care and public health operations, including veterinary care and the manufacturing and distribution of medical equipment; human services operations such as nursing homes that provide care to the frail, elderly and disabled; essential infrastructure such as food production and distribution, certain kinds of construction and operating public utilities; and essential government functions.
Essential businesses include such things as grocery stores and pharmacies; food, beverage and cannabis production; agriculture; organizations that provide charitable and social services; newspapers, television, radio and other media services; gas stations and other businesses needed for transportation; financial institutions; and hardware and supply stores.
Per the order, bars and restaurants will still be allowed to offer carry-out, curbside pickup and delivery, and mail and shipping operations will continue as well. Critical trades, shelters and laundry services may also remain open, as may day cares for children of workers exempted by the order.
And a non-essential business that must close its physical workplace may continue operating with employees working exclusively from home.
“I want to say and be clear, this is not a lockdown or martial law,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in an effort to calm the public’s nerves. “As the governor said, and I want to reiterate, Chicago’s grocery stores, pharmacies and clinics will remain open, and there’s absolutely no need to change your normal purchasing patterns.”
Dr. Emily Landon, lead epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine, described the measures as necessary and indicated they might have to remain in place beyond April 7.
“In short, without taking drastic measures, the healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable,” she said. “We have to fight this fire before it grows too high.”
“These extreme restrictions may seem, in the end, a little anticlimactic,” she continued, “because it’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix from your couch. But if we do this right, nothing happens. Yeah, a successful shelter-in-place means that you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing. And you’d be right. Because nothing means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here.”
Governors in California and New York state have also issued “Stay Home” orders. Florida closed its restaurants, bars and gyms at the height of spring break season. And the federal government has also closed the U.S-Mexico border to all nonessential travel.