With Illinois COVID-19 cases spiking again, Gov J.B. Pritzker today unveiled new statewide rules designed to put teeth in requirements that businesses, schools and child-care establishments require people to wear face coverings and limit capacity. Included: fines of up to $2,500.
The rules, filed this morning by the Illinois Department of Public Health, will give local health and law enforcement officials “more leeway to support community public health in a productive manner,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Under the new rules, businesses that pack in too many people or fail to enforce social distancing will get a written notice warning them they are out of compliance. Businesses that do not comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave. If the business continues to refuse to comply, it be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of $75 to $2,500.
Pritzker stressed that the rules do not apply to individuals, but give local officials, who control enforcement, a little more power to act.
Pritzker had floated a version of this rule weeks ago, but ran into objections from a legislative panel that had to review his proposals. The new rules, presented today with labor and business leaders at his side, appear to be an effort at compromise rather than partially shutting down bars and other gathering spots.
“This a make-or-break moment for the state,” Pritzker declared, hinting that if cases continue to rise, more steps will be needed. “We wanted to make sure that a minimum enforcement measure was available to every county.”
The governor also announced he’s signed legislation adding a new penalty in the law for assaulting a retail worker who is trying to enforce masking rules.
11:40 A.M. UPDATE: If the governor thought he was striking a compromise, that’s surely not how one key business group sees it.
“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,” Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in a statement.
“If the goal is to put public health above politics, the administration will amend the rule to focus enforcement efforts on individuals who are not complying, instead of punishing and attempting to demonize innocent businesses,” said Karr.
“State officials have for months complained about improper behavior by individuals at parties, parks and other public places, yet they are specifically exempting individuals from enforcement. The governor is right—this is a make-or-break moment for the state. Either the administration will support the businesses who have been on the front line of this pandemic and focus efforts on the individuals who are not complying with the face covering mandate, or they risk squandering this moment in time.”
If other business groups follow Karr’s lead, it may indicate Pritzker will have trouble getting his new rule through the legislative panel that balked at the first version, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules