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Illinois Gov. Pritzker Orders Residents To 'Stay Home,' Nonessential Businesses To Close

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered Illinois residents to stay home and non-essential businesses to close. 3/20/20
Governor J.B. Pritzker Facebook Live screenshot
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered Illinois residents to stay home and nonessential businesses to close beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Updated 6:20 p.m. March 20 with comments from business leaders and details about what activities and businesses are excluded from the order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued sweeping new ordersthat restrict movement and close vast numbers of businesses statewide, the latest steps he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. It closes all nonessential businesses, including hair salons, retail shops and recreational businesses like bowling alleys. The order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations or other businesses that provide essential services. Transit and roads will not close down, and restaurants will still be able to provide takeout food if they wish.

Illinois residents will still be able to leave their homes for walks and other exercise as long as they are not under quarantine for COVID-19 exposure or infection. 

The order lasts through April 7.

The governor said the decision to shutter the doors of thousands of businesses in the state was not an easy one.

“I fully recognize that in some cases, I am choosing between saving people’s lives and saving people’s livelihoods,” Pritzker said. “But ultimately, you can’t have your livelihood if you don’t have your life.”

He pledged to ensure that essential workers like health care providers and first responders will have access to safe child care. He also said he’s ordered municipalities to halt evictions.

Business community reaction

While commending the governor for “his strong leadership in keeping Illinoisans safe during this public health crisis,” the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said in a statement it had hoped for more consideration of the economic impact of a stay-at-home order.

“It has been reported that from Monday to Wednesday this week 64,000 new applications for unemployment benefits were filed,” Chamber CEO Todd Maisch said. “This is an incredibly important public health issue that requires strong action, but we need equally aggressive action to ease the economic burden that will be carried by all Illinoisans in the coming weeks."

Both the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association applauded the step.

“The Governor's declaration was not an easy decision to make, but it is one that we support in order to ensure the health and safety of our citizens,” said Mark Denzler, president of the Manufacturers’ Association.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association pPresident Rob Karr called the order “a measured and thoughtful approach to minimize the significant economic impact as much as possible while maximizing the ability to halt the spread of this public health crisis.”

‘One inescapable conclusion’

Pritzker said Friday at his daily briefing that he has made all of his decisions after consulting with doctors, mathematicians and other experts about the best ways to control the spread of the virus and to save lives.

“They came back to me with one inescapable conclusion: to avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois. So that is the action I am announcing today,” he said.

The governors of California and New York have issued similar orders.

Law enforcement throughout the state will be monitoring for violations, Pritzker said, but will not have the desire or the resources to patrol streets looking for businesses that are open in defiance of the order.

“Enforcement comes in many forms, and the first and best option is to rely on residents of Illinois to be good members of their community and good citizens,” he said.

Also on Friday, Pritzker announced a fifth coronavirus-related death in the state, a woman from Cook County in her 70s. As of 3 p.m. Friday, the state had reported nearly 600 confirmed cases of the virus.

In Missouri. Gov. Mike Parson issued a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, a step taken already by most of the most populated counties in his state. He also announced the state’s second death from COVID-19, an 80-year-old woman from the Kansas City area.

What is 'essential'?

Pritzker’s executive order outlines the following “essential” activities, government functions and business services that are exempt from the order.

Essential activities: 

  • For health and safety: seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication or visiting a health care professional.
  • For necessary supplies and services: obtaining groceries and food, household consumer products, supplies they need to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences.
  • For outdoor activity: walking, hiking, running or biking – including going to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, except for playgrounds.
  • For certain types of work: providing essential products and services at essential businesses or operations or otherwise carrying out activities specifically permitted in the order, including minimum basic operations.
  • To take care of others: caring for or transporting a family member, friend or pet in another household

Essential government functions:

  • All services provided by state and local governments needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.
  • This executive order does not apply to the U.S. government.

Essential businesses and operations:

  • Health care and public health operations: Working at or obtaining services from hospitals; clinics; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities; health care manufacturers and suppliers; blood banks; medical cannabis facilities; reproductive health care providers; eye care centers; home health care services providers; mental health and substance use providers; ancillary health care services — including veterinary care and excluding fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and similar facilities.
  • Human services operations: any provider funded by DHS, DCFS or Medicaid; long-term care facilities; home-based and residential settings for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with disabilities or mental illness; transitional facilities; field offices for food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services or rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services and other necessities of life for needy individuals — excluding day care centers, day care homes, group day care homes and day care centers licensed as specified in Section 12(s) of the order.
  • Essential infrastructure: working in food production, distribution and sale; construction; building management and maintenance; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer and gas; electrical; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; roads, highways, railroads and public transportation; ports; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video and telecommunications systems.
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine.
  • Food, beverage and cannabis production and agriculture.
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services.
  • Media.
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation.
  • Financial institutions.
  • Hardware and supply stores.
  • Critical trades, including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers that maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences, essential activities, and essential businesses and operations
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services.
  • Educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions.
  • Laundry services.
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises.
  • Supplies to work from home.
  • Supplies for essential businesses and operations.
  • Transportation, for purposes of essential travel.
  • Home-based care and services.
  • Residential facilities and shelters.
  • Professional services.
  • Day care centers for employees exempted by this executive order.
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries.
  • Critical labor union functions.
  • Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services.
  • Funeral services.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmannReporter Eric Schmid contributed to this article.

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.