COVID-19 deaths pass 2,000 statewide as Pritzker assures 'the stay-at-home order remains in place'
Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed confidence "the courts will overturn" a judge's ruling that threatens the extension of his stay-at-home order through May 30, as officials on Tuesday announced the COVID-19 death toll in Illinois surpassed 2,000.
Pritzker was responding to the temporary restraining order Clay County Judge Michael McHaney issued Monday in the lawsuit filed by Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey questioning the governor's authority. McHaney's order essentially allows the Xenia lawmaker, and only him, to ignore the mandate.
"The stay-at-home order remains in place," Pritzker said at Tuesday's briefing in Chicago. An earlier order ends at midnight Thursday, but "I do not believe the courts will allow this ruling to stand."
Pritkzer noted that by agreeing with Bailey, the "court sets a dangerous precedent."
Attorney General Kwame Raoul is appealing the judge's decision to the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court.
However, Republican state Rep. John Cabello of Machesney Park said Tuesday he intends to file a similar lawsuit in Winnebago County.
The legal battle comes at a time when the number of Illinoisans who've died from COVID-19 grew by 144, the largest single-day toll so far, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday. Officials also reported an additional 2,219 positive cases.
That brings the total fatalities from the respiratory disease statewide to 2,125. The number of infections rose to 48,102 as the state increases testing.
Of those who perished, 80% were from northern Illinois, 14% from southern Illinois and 6% from central Illinois, IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.
Of people who tested positive for COVID-19, 49% reported feeling recovered after two weeks, 61% reported feeling symptom-free after two to four weeks, and 74% of people reported they no longer felt symptoms after four weeks.
"I hope that's seen as encouraging news," Ezike said.
In his ruling, McHaney said Bailey "has a clearly ascertainable right in need of immediate protection, namely his liberty interest to be free from Pritzker's executive order of quarantine in his own home."
Bailey said in a statement his case is the "mechanism by which 'we the people' will be allowed to govern ourselves as our constitution demands."
While calling Bailey's action "a political stunt" and stressing the judge's ruling was only about "one person," Pritzker was concerned about repeats.
"We will not stop this virus if because of this ruling, any resident can petition to be exempted from any aspect of this order. We rely on collective action to keep us all safe," Pritzker said.
Cabello said he hopes to file a lawsuit on behalf of himself and all Illinois residents. He thinks Pritkzer has overstepped his authority and by extending the order is causing people "to lose their livelihoods."
"We should be able to find out if it's constitutional for him to do that or not," he said.
One legal expert thinks the state has a strong case. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act authorizes a governor to determine whether a disaster exists and to declare it, Naperville attorney Shawn Collins said. That proclamation also allows a governor emergency powers for 30 days, and that authority can be extended by finding that a disaster still exists, Collins said.
Given more Illinoisans died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours than at any other time, "nobody in their right mind should argue that a disaster doesn't exist," Collins said.
As of Tuesday, 4,738 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 4,672 Monday, Ezike said; 25% of those were in the ICU and 778 were on ventilators.
Asked about allowing swimming pools to open, Ezike noted pools involve "mass gatherings by definition," where COVID-19 can spread, and the state would need improved numbers before that could be considered.