‘We know this will be hard’: Pritzker orders Illinois residents to hunker down amid coronavirus

‘We know this will be hard’: Pritzker orders Illinois residents to hunker down amid coronavirus


CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans Friday he will direct the state’s 13 million residents stay home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, a move coming less than 24 hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a similar edict.

Effective 5 p.m. Saturday local time all Illinois residents in Illinois will be allowed to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors’ appointments and to get gas for their cars but will otherwise be subject to a “stay at home order” through April 7.

“I did not come to this decision lightly,” Pritzker told reporters during a daily briefing about the disease, announcing his decision.

Illinois reported its 5th death due to the illness on Friday. State Public Health chief Ngozi Ezike said there are 585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 25 counties.

Non-essential businesses must shut down, Pritzker said, but the “fundamental building blocks” of society will not change. Similar to New York and Ohio, which have also shuttered a range of businesses to fight COVID-19, restaurants are barred from offering dine-in service but take-out and drive-through will continue.

“We know this will be hard,” Pritzker said. “This will not last forever. But it will force us to change. We in Illinois have overcome obstacles before and we will again.”

Pritzker’s new plan goes well beyond what Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told city residents in a Thursday afternoon address from her ceremonial office in City Hall, mostly urging those who feel sick to stay home.

By Friday afternoon, Lightfoot made the leap alongside the governor.

“This is a make break or break moment for the city and the state,” Lightfoot said during Friday’s briefing.

“Now is not the time for half measures… We need to act swiftly. We have seen what happens when we don’t mobilize,” she said, pointing to other countries that have been hit hard by the virus. “We must be intentional about flattening the curve.”
Essential employees will still be able to report to work, such as supply chain crews who keep grocery stores stocked and running. First responders, manufacturing workers, journalists and food delivery workers will also be able to continue. The rest of residents must stay home except for essential needs, the governor said.

Residents may still walk outside — including at Chicago parks, though the park facilities will be closed. Libraries will also close. Pritzker said child care services will be provided to first-responders and that evictions of those who are affected by the spiraling economy will be halted.

“I asked what action can I take to save the most lives…to avoid the loss of tens of thousands of lives,” Pritzker said of his conversations with scientists, mathematicians and health officials who monitor the virus.

Illinois officials are focusing on increasing testing and hospital capacity. The state is working to reopen closed hospital. Officials are determining what it will take to open the hospitals and provide medical care to patients with COVID-19.

There also are discussions about starting tele-health for people who have mild symptoms.

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