Governor J.B. Pritzker is ordering Illinoisans to remain at home as much as possible until the end of April. The original order was set to end next week, and the extension comes as the federal government extended its social distancing guidelines.
Pritzker says keeping Illinois on a partial lockdown will help keep residents safe from the new coronavirus.
“The cascading consequences of these steps weigh on me every minute of every day,” the governor said at a daily press conference.
Bars and restaurants will remain closed to dine-in traffic, schools will continue to teach students online, and all non-essential travel will remain prohibited. Essential services like grocery stores will stay open. Pritzker said the decision follows the advice of public health experts.
“Since the beginning, my priority through each and every one of these decisions has been, and continues to be, saving as many people’s lives as possible,” he said.
Those same experts have warned of a coming spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths. To prepare the state’s infrastructure, the governor said residents must do whatever they can to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot echoed that concern. She says even though the weather may be getting nicer in the coming days, the virus is not.
“Staying home really will make a huge difference in flattening the curve, getting us through the peak sooner rather than later, and then down on the other side of the steep slope,” Lightfoot argued.
The mayor praised “the vast majority” of Chicagoans for complying with local efforts to contain COVID-19, and sympathized with those who have had to miss out on sporting events and other spring activities so far.
"People are really challenging themselves to figure out creative ways that they can distract themselves from the concern and fear they realistically have,” she said.
State leaders said COVID-19 patients are so far occupying 35 percent of Illinois intensive care unit beds, and that number is expected to increase. The state’s public health department has so far confirmed 6,000 people in Illinois contracted the virus. 99 people have died.
Separately, Pritzker encouraged more healthcare workers to return to the profession, and said he’s “looking at” granting temporary professional licenses to students nearing graduation from medical school.
In response to concerns about the safety of inmates and staff at Illinois prisons, Pritzker said anyone who contracts COVID-19 will receive “available medical assistance” and even threatened to compel hospitals to treat afflicted inmates if any refuse to do so.
“An incarcerated person is a person, and my administration will not be in the business of claiming one life worth more than another,” the governor said.