Rockford, Illinois News

Pritzker announces new COVID-19 emergency rules

CHICAGO – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday he is submitting administrative rules that would allow authorities to fine businesses up to $2,500 for failing to require face coverings and social distancing in the fight against COVID-19.

Te emergency rules would apply to  businesses, schools, and child care enters and require face coverings in those establishments.

“As I’ve visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it’s clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect frontline workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,”Pritzker said.

The governor said the rules will provide opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued. He said they are commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines to complement the substantial progress in the state’s COVID-19 response.

“The vast majority of communities and business owners have done the right thing,” he said. “These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”

Businesses in violation of the new rules will be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance. Those that not voluntarily comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks. If the business continues to refuse to comply, the business can receive a Class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500.

These rules do not apply to individuals and penalties will not exceed a misdemeanor and a $75-$2,500 fine.

Pritzker also signed SB471 Friday to help protect workers who continue to serve on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. The legislation aims to protect workers in retail settings, allowing  for a penalty for assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing.

State leaders say the provision sends the message that it’s vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the front lines.

“As we continue to adapt to the changes forced on us by the current pandemic, we have to also create a response that addresses the long-time issues it has exacerbated,” Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D) said. “Our essential workers put their lives at risk for us to stay safe, and it is clear that we have to continue to do better to protect working class people with a renewed commitment to providing basic rights for everyone.”

Illinois Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-113) said the rules send a clear message to essential workers that the state is behind them protect their safety and well-being.

As our state faces the challenges created by the ongoing global pandemic, we are doing all we can to support and protect our front line and essential workers,” Hoffman said.

The law also increases paid disability leave for any injury that occurs after March 9, 2020 by 60 days for firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics whose recovery was hindered by COVID-19.

More specifically, eligible employees include any part-time or full-time state correctional officer or any other full or part-time employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections; any full or part-time employee of the Prisoner Review Board; and any full or part-time employee of the Department of Human Services working within a penal institution or a state mental health or developmental disabilities facility operated by the Department of Human Services.

The law also protects any full-time law enforcement officer or full-time firefighter.

Pritzker said Friday’s announcement is part of his administration’s efforts to protect the safety and livelihood of Illinois residents by continuing to enforce all labor laws during the pandemic.

SB 471 takes effect immediately.

Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Public Health is submitting administrative rules to allow for a progression of enforceable actions ranging from an enforcement officer educating an establishment about the rules, to a warning and then to a monetary fine of between $75 and $2,500. He announced the plan at a news conference joined by union leaders, the Illinois Restaurant Association and others.

The governor said the administrative rules will assist law enforcement, local boards of health, school districts and the general public in enforcing the use of face coverings and social gathering restrictions.

“Illinois has made substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19 because the vast majority of communities and business owners have done the right thing,” Pritzker said in a statement. “These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”

Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, among others, aren’t in support of the Friday’s news.

“I am very skeptical and uncomfortable with the administration setting up new criminal enforcement regulation outside of the legislative process,” Schimpf said.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association CEO Rob Karr said  fines should be imposed on individuals, not businesses.

“This proposed rule lacks common sense and is a slap in the face to the thousands of retailers who have sacrificed so much during this pandemic while actively supporting ever-changing health and safety guidelines adopted by the state,” Karr said.”Indeed, many of the guidelines ultimately adopted by the state were modeled by retailers well before they were implemented by the state.”

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