Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered Illinois residents to stay home as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the state climbed to 585 on Friday.
Residents can leave their homes to seek groceries, medicine and medical care, Pritzker said. Otherwise, they must stay home.
The order officially starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and continues through at least April 7, according to the governor.
“As this epidemic has progressed we’ve had to make some hard some decisions,” Pritzker said during his daily press briefing Friday afternoon. Pritzker said he’s talked with experts and relied on science to guide his decisions. “To avoid the loss, potentially of tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois,” he said.
More video: Watch the full press conference.
Suburban Oak Park has already implemented such an order, as has California.
Illinois officials said essential municipal operations will continue, including garbage collection and public transportation.
“I don’t come to this decision easily. I fully recognize in some cases I’m choosing between saving people’s lives and saving people’s livelihoods,” Pritzker said. “But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life.”
Pritzker called for all nonessential businesses to stop operating and for those who have yet to begin working from home to do so now. Health care workers, first responders, law enforcement officers and individuals who work at places grocery stores and pharmacies are exempt, he said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supports Pritzker’s decision. “The coronavirus will not go away by happenstance. We must be intentional,” Lightfoot said at Friday’s press briefing. “We can only save lives by keeping as many people as home as possible.”
The stay-at-home order is not a lockdown or martial law, Lightfoot stressed. She urged people not to run to grocery stores, which will remain open. “Be mindful of your neighbors and do not hoard supplies,” Lightfoot said.
Pritzker said he’s relying on Illinoisans “to be good citizens” and follow the stay-at-home order. But those wo refuse to comply could face violations, including up to a reckless conduct misdemeanor, he said.
On Friday, officials reported the fifth COVID-19 death in the state: a Cook County resident in her 70s. Confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in 25 counties, according to IDPH, and patients have ranged in age from 3 to 99.
University of Chicago Dr. Emily Landon, who specializes in infection prevention and control, said the stay-at-home order is vital to saving lives. “This is the only way forward,” she said at Friday’s briefing. “This virus is unforgiving. It spreads before you know you’ve even caught it. It tricks you into thinking it’s nothing but the flu.”
This week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois increased sharply. If that trend continues, the state could reach 3,400 cases by next Friday, according to the IDPH.
“We can’t stop cases from coming fast and furious,” Landon said, adding that the numbers reported daily don’t include those who are sick and do not know it. She, along with other officials, urged people to stay home to help prevent spread of the virus and bend the curve. “Without taking drastic measures, the healthy and the optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable,” she said.
Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then tossing it, limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel, and staying home when you are sick.
Friday’s stay-at-home order follows previous announcements of similar measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including closing restaurants and bars to dine-in customers, and shuttering all public and private schools in the state, which will now remain closed until at least April 8. Chicago Public Schools, Lightfoot announced Thursday, will remain closed until April 21. While schools are closed, CPS will have grab-and-go meals available between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to any child, regardless of whether they qualify for free and reduced lunches.