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Gov. Pritzker issues stay-at-home order starting 5 p.m. Saturday

Essential businesses to stay open. "For the vast majority of you already taking precautions, your lives will not change very much," Gov. says

Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question Thursday after announcing that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a news conference in Chicago.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question Thursday after announcing that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a news conference in Chicago.

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CHICAGO – Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order for all Illinois residents beginning 5 p.m. Saturday, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, he said in a joint news conference with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday afternoon.

“The only strategy available to us to limit the increase in cases and ensure our healthcare system has capacity to treat those who become ill is to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the most robust manner possible,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said he wants to assure the public that essential businesses will remain open to the public.

Illinois residents will still be able to leave their homes to do things like going to the grocery store, visiting pharmacies, putting gas in their cars, going for walks and visiting medical offices, Pritzker said.

Pritzker said that, for residents who have already been engaging in self-quarantining measures, “your lives will not change very much.”

“I’ve asked every one of these experts, What action can I take to save the most lives?’” he said. “Well, they’ve come 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.”

The stay-at-home order will remain in place until the end of the day on April 7, but Pritzker said his administration will continue to monitor the spread of the coronavirus to determine whether this period should be extended.

This means that all nonessential businesses must stop operating and anyone who is able to work from home must do so, Pritzker said.

Illinois schools will remain closed until April 8, which Pritzker said may also be subject to change. However, he said the state would support school districts in continuing to provide daily meals to students.

Restaurants will still be open for pick-up and delivery services as well, he said.

A full list of essential businesses, which will remain open, can be found in Pritzker’s latest executive order at coronavirus.illinois.gov.

“I have spoken with many of my colleagues across the city and the state and we all acknowledge that this is the only way forward,” lead epidemiologist for the University of Chicago Medicine, Emily Landon, said.

“We can’t take care of everyone at once and we can’t keep that low mortality promise if we can’t provide the support that our patients need,” Landon said. “...all we have to slow the spread is distance, social distance.”

“The governor, local leaders and I are in full agreement that we need to act swiftly and that this decision is necessary,” Lightfoot said.

As of Friday, a fifth person in Illinois has died due to COVID-19 – a woman in her 70s from Cook County, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Ngozi Ezike said.

There are now 585 confirmed cases of the virus in 25 counties across the state, she said.

Illinois has significantly ramped up it’s testing ability and is now doing around 1,000 tests per day, Ezike said. Confirmed cases are expected to rise with the increase in testing.

This is a number the state will work to increase through the use of mobile, “drive-thru” testing sites, she added.

“We want to strengthen the testing capacity in Illinois by helping hospitals and laboratories to develop their own testing abilities,” Ezike said. “And we expect to have these tests available within the healthcare system in the next few weeks.”

Pritzker has ordered all municipalities to halt evictions during the crisis and will dedicate additional resources to organizations that address homelessness, he said.

“For our essential workers, we’re going to make sure you have safe daycare to take care of your children,” he added.

Law enforcement will monitor for violations of the stay-at-home order and will take actions when necessary, Pritzker said.

There may also be consequences at the local level for nonessential businesses that refuse to comply with the order, he said.

“We here in Illinois have overcome obstacles before and we’ll do so again,” he said. “And we will rise to this occasion.”

Illinois is now the second state to issue a shelter-in-place order after California put in a shelter-in-place order on Thursday night.

Prtizkers said Friday’s stay-at-home order wasn’t an easy decision.

“I fully recognize, in some cases, I am choosing between saving people’s lives and saving people’s livelihoods. But ultimately you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life,” he said. “Of all the obligations that weigh on me as governor, this is the greatest. If there are actions that I can take to save lives in the midst of this pandemic, no matter how difficult, then I have an obligation to take these actions.”

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