Pritzker issues 'stay at home' order starting 5 p.m. Saturday; schools to stay closed longer

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown here Friday, is ordering people to stay at home whenever possible to curtail the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown here Friday, is ordering people to stay at home whenever possible to curtail the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Associated Press

Updated 3/20/2020 7:16 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a stay-at-home order beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday and lasting through April 7.

Pritzker said people should isolate themselves at home but allowed exceptions for essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies and said customers can visit them to attend to daily needs.


The restriction, announced by Pritzker Friday at his daily briefing, is to "mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the most robust manner possible."

A total of 163 more cases of the respiratory disease in Illinois were announced, reaching 585 across 25 counties. Adams, Christian and McLean counties each reported cases for the first time.

A Cook County resident in her 70s has died of the disease, increasing the number of Illinoisans killed by coronavirus to five, Pritzker said.

"You have a right to the truth because you can bear it," Pritzker said. "My bedrock is to rely on science.

The governor already closed schools, plus restaurant and bars are shuttered except to provide takeout. But the new restrictions ban gatherings of 10 or more people and temporarily close licensed child-care centers serving more than six children.

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"We looked closely at the trajectory of this disease in countries like Italy and China. Left unchecked cases in Illinois will rise rapidly. Hospitals will be overwhelmed, protective equipment will become scarce and there will not be enough health care workers or hospital beds or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients."

Pritzker also set April 8 as a tentative date when public and private schools from kindergarten to grade 12 would reopen. "I wish I could stand and tell you when your schools will reopen safely, but it's not an answer I have at this time."

What does a "stay at home" order mean?

Pritzker assured residents that necessary services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and gas stations will stay open. People can still travel on transit and drive for necessary trips such as jobs or a medical appointment.

"Agriculture and the press, veterinarians and plumbers, laundromats and banks, roads, bridges and transit -- the fundamental building blocks that keep our society steady will not be closing down," Pritzker said.


"You'll still be able to go running and hiking and walk your dog," he said.

Pritzker also promised an expansion of testing in Illinois but did not give details.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said the state is considering reopening four closed hospitals in Illinois to deal with COVID-19 cases.

Asked how the state would enforce the stay-at-home rule, Pritzker said: "We anticipate people will follow this order. We do not have the resources, the capacity or desire to police every individual's behavior." Local police can issue citations to citizens or businesses that appear to be recklessly disobeying the mandate, he said.

"Today's actions represents a sincere bipartisan effort to fulfill the responsibility government has to combat the spread of COVID-19," DuPage Chairman Dan Cronin said.

The DuPage County Health Department announced three more cases of COVID-19 Friday but none from the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook, which is experiencing an outbreak. That brings the total of cases to 57.

The Lake County Health Department reported 11 new cases on Friday. There are now 53 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lake, according to the state.

Other county COVID-19 cases tallies include: 411 in Cook; 10 in Will; and eight each in Kane and McHenry, state data showed Friday.

The Cook County medical examiner's office announced a 73-year-old man from Chicago had died of the disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Schaumburg Township District Library officials say a person who visited the Central Library building on March 12 has tested positive for COVID-19. The person is self-isolating at home and is feeling fine, the library announced. The staff have been notified and Schaumburg library facilities have been closed to the public since March 13.

Four Elgin firefighters were placed in isolation after taking a 3-year-old patient who later tested positive for COVID-19 to St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates on March 12.

Pritzker also dispelled gossip on social media earlier Friday about the Illinois National Guard activating to secure the state.

"Those are all false. We want people to take a deep breath and remember that in addition to people who like to forward rumors on Twitter, there are also efforts by the Chinese and Russian governments to feed into paranoia."

The state is working to provide help for homeless residents and has halted evictions.

The village of Oak Park instituted a "shelter in place"' policy effective Friday through April 3 and California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a similar statewide order on Thursday. Connecticut and New York imposed similar restrictions on Friday.

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