Lawmakers on Tuesday approved new rules crafted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by requiring businesses and schools to enforce the state’s order that everyone wear a face mask and to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people.
The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to make Pritzker’s regulations permanent in the face of opposition from Illinois Republicans and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. In May, state lawmakers balked at approving similar rules after Republicans called the governor’s actions an unconstitutional overreach.
“The vast majority of our communities and business owners are doing what’s right,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Working alongside these partners, these rules will provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued and will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward.”
Pritzker issued an order May 1 for all Illinoisans older than age 2 to wear a mask when they can’t keep more than 6 feet of distance from others.
Businesses must limit gatherings to no more than 50 people, or no more than half of their maximum capacity, according to the state’s rules.
Pritzker said the rules were designed to set a minimum standard for businesses throughout Illinois, but do not prohibit local governments, like Chicago, from setting stricter rules.
The rules do not apply to individuals, Pritzker said, adding that he does not want police officers stopping people who are not wearing masks or violating social distancing rules.
Businesses that flout the rules will first get a warning and owners will be encouraged to comply with the rules. If they don’t, officials would shut them down, according to the rules.
If a business continues to ignore the rules, its owners could face a misdemeanor charge, which could come with a fine of $75 to $2,500, according to the rules.
Illinois Retail Merchant Association CEO Rob Karr accused the Pritzker administration of abandoning “the partnership with retailers that has helped guide our state through this pandemic.”
“While the administration preaches the importance of individuals wearing face coverings, they are clearly not interested in taking responsibility for their own orders,” Karr said. “Instead, they are exporting their enforcement responsibilities to others and playing politics with the pandemic. Make no mistake: their actions have once again put retailers and their employees in harm’s way.”
The rule was also opposed by the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, which represents the state’s gas stations and convenience stores.
“Doing business in Illinois during this unprecedented time of conflict and challenge is now even harder,” said CEO Josh Sharp, who urged Pritzker to rethink the rule.
However, the rule is supported by the Illinois Restaurant Association, Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.
The new rules will also prevent school districts from reopening without requiring teachers, staff and students to wear masks, Pritzker said.
State health officials reported 1,549 new cases of the coronavirus between Monday and Tuesday.