CHICAGO (CBS) — After more than two weeks of asking Illinois residents to stay home as much as possible during the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. JB Pritzker is issuing a statewide “stay at home” order, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday through April 7.
“As this epidemic has progressed, we have had to make some hard decisions,” Pritzker said Friday afternoon. “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 that I’m announcing today.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the governor’s order is a necessary step to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” — or slowing the outbreak so clinics and hospitals are not overwhelmed with virus-infected patients.
“We have seen what bold measures have yielded in places like Japan, and Singapore, and South Korea; and, sadly, we are witnessing what is not happening around the world in countries that did not mobilize. The coronavirus will not go away by happenstance. We must be intentional about taking steps to flatten the curve,” Lightfoot said. “Now is not the time for half measures.”
Lightfoot already had issued an order mandating anyone in Chicago who has tested positive for COVID-19, or who is showing symptoms, to stay home.
The governor and mayor said, under the statewide “stay at home” order, people will still be able to go out to get food from the grocery, to get medical supplies from the pharmacy, to visit their doctor or healthcare provider, to fill up their car at the gas station, or to go for a run, hike, or walk with their dog as long as they practice social distancing. Pritzker also said many people will still be able to go to work.
“For the vast majority of you already taking precautions, your lives will not change very much,” Pritzker said. “There is absolutely no need to rush out to a grocery store or a gas station. On Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday, and every day thereafter, those will be available to you.”
Pritzker said people also can still go out to pick up meals at restaurants. However, he said he’s also ordering non-essential businesses to stop operating, and said anyone who can work from home must do so.
The governor’s order defines essential businesses as those that sell, process, or produce food, groceries, and medicine; charities or non-profits, including food banks and shelters; educational institutions; healthcare and public health organizations; human services operations; essential government functions and infrastructure; media outlets; gas stations, auto supply and repair shops, and other transportation facilities; banks, currency exchanges, and other financial institutions; hardware and supply stores; trades such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and other home and building maintenance services; mail and delivery operations; laundry services; business supply stores; public transportation and airports; home care services; residential facilities and hotels; legal services; manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain industries; and funeral services. However, the state’s Pre-K through 12th grade schools remain subject to Pritzker’s separate school closings order.
“The easy thing to say today is that, soon, everything will go back to the way it was, but I want to be honest with you about that, too. We don’t know yet all the steps we are going to have to take to get this virus under control,” Pritzker said. “This will not last forever, however it’s going to force us to change, but that’s okay. Any event of this magnitude should force us to change. We here in Illinois have overcome obstacles before, and will do so again, and we will rise to this occasion.”
The governor and mayor urged people not to hoard food and medical supplies, reiterating that grocery stores, pharmacies, and medical clinics will stay open throughout the “stay at home” order.
“This is not a time for every man for himself. This is a time for every man, woman, and child to be united together,” Lightfoot said.
Officials said they are still finalizing plans to secure quarantine and isolation locations during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to bolster hospital capacity, and support healthcare workers and first responders by making sure they have the medical supplies they need, such as protective gear and ventilators.
“Left unchecked, cases in Illinois will rise rapidly, hospital systems will be overwhelmed protective equipment will become scarce, and we will not have enough healthcare workers, or hospital beds, or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients. The only strategy available to us to limit the increase in cases and ensure our health care system has capacity to treat those who become ill is to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the most robust manner possible,” he said.
The governor said he recognizes he is choosing between saving lives and saving people’s livelihoods, “but ultimately you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life,”
“We are doing all that we can to maintain as much normalcy as possible while taking the steps that we must to protect you,” Pritzker said.
New York and California have issued similar stay at home orders.
West suburban Oak Park also began enforcing a local stay at home order on Friday, after two emergency room physicians at Rush Oak Park Hospital tested positive for COVID-19.
Meantime, CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov has confirmed the Chicago Police Department has canceled all days off this weekend for officers to prepare for the expected stay at home order.
According to an internal Chicago Police Department memo obtained by CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov, police officers and supervisors assigned to all shifts — including CAPS officers, strategic decision support center personnel, district coordination officers, tactical teams, area saturation teams, gang and gun teams, and administration — will have their regular days off canceled this weekend.
Breaking and Confirmed: Chicago patrol officer have had all days off canceled to be prepared for the weekend and possible shelter in place. @cbschicago
— Dana Kozlov (@DanaCBS2) March 20, 2020
Education and training division personnel and returning service officers (RSOs) detailed to districts effective Friday also will have their days off canceled this weekend, and should report to their district. Recruits detailed to districts effective Wednesday also will have their days off canceled, and should report to their district.
“With the exception of the recruits and RSOs, Area Deputy Chiefs and District Commanders will deploy their additional resources to retail corridors, main thoroughfares and/or other areas that need special attention on fixed posts, foot or mobile patrols (equipment permitting),” the memo states.
BREAKING: Sources tell me CPD officers will be posted in the following areas: hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, City Hall, libraries, hardware supply stores and designated retail stores after Governor Pritzker announces ‘shelter in place’ for Illinois residents. @cbschicago
— Suzanne Le Mignot (@SuzanneLeMignot) March 20, 2020
Asked what punishment people could face for violating the order, Pritzker said, “We’re calling on people to use their best judgment to follow the guidance that we’re giving them.”
“We’re of course authorizing that members of law enforcement, if they see somebody who’s maybe violating this order, they would go talk to them and ask them not to,” he said. “Then if the people who are violating the rule refuse to comply, a police officer could get a cease and desist order. They’d have to get one in a court to do that. And then finally, in a last resort really, there is the reckless conduct misdemeanor that someone could be charged with.”
At the local level, Pritzker said people also could lose business licenses or other permits if they refuse to comply with the order.
Lightfoot said she doesn’t expect widespread violations, and said police will be instructed to try to educate people about the order, and urge them to go home if they violate the governor’s decree.
“I think for most people, that will be enough,” she said.
Pritzker also shot down rumors that he would be using the National Guard to impose martial law during the “stay at home” order.
“Those are all false, and I want people to take a deep breath, people who have heard these rumors. Remember, in addition to people who just like to forward rumors around on Twitter or on Facebook, there is also I hate to tell you an effort by the Chinese government and the Russian government to feed into that paranoia that people have about what’s going on,” he said.
Pritzker previously had ordered all Illinois restaurants and bars to shut down dine-in service through March 30, mandated all Illinois schools to close through March 30, and banned all gatherings of more than 50 people. The Chicago Public Schools have since extended their school closures through April 20. Pritzker said the rest of the state’s schools are now scheduled to reopen on April 8, although he acknowledged the reopening date could change again before the crisis is over.
The mayor said the city is now closing all public libraries and park district facilities throughout the “stay at home” order. She said some of those facilities might be re-purposed to support essential services during the coronavirus outbreak.
Public transit systems and the airports will remain open.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois has been growing exponentially in recent days, and public health officials have said they don’t expect the rate of new cases to slow down anytime soon.
On Friday, public health officials announced 163 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois, bringing the state’s total to 585. The state has also seen another death from COVID-19, a Cook County woman in her 70s, bringing the total number of fatal cases in Illinois to five.
The governor said the state plans to COVID-19 expand testing in the days and weeks ahead to figure out how to detect and treat the virus more efficiently and effectively.
Pritzker also is eyeing potential sites that could treat an overflow of patients if hospitals reach capacity during the coronavirus pandemic. A developer on Thursday purchased the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island, which the state had been considering as a potential overflow site, but it’s unclear what the developer’s plans are.
Meantime, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office announced it will not prosecute cases of non-violent, low-level drug cases, in favor of other crimes during the outbreak.
“By reducing the number of individuals who cycle through police stations and jail on minor offenses, we can mitigate some risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement Friday afternoon.
According to the state’s attorney’s office, the Illinois State Police forensics lab has closed for routine evidence testing, and is only allowing emergency testing in violent crimes cases.