Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said he is worried the mass protests over police brutality happening across the country could spread the coronavirus.
Many of those taking to the streets in cities like Chicago have worn facemasks, although Pritzker pointed out the crowds weren’t always social distancing. The governor said he supports the right to peaceful protests.
“But the virus is still out there. And we can’t forget that. We have communities all around the state that are desperately trying to recover from the damage this virus has done,” he said.
Pritzker made his comments during a news conference in which he announced 375 Illinois National Guard soldiers were activated to help in Chicago. The guard members will be on a limited mission to manage street closures and won’t interfere with protestors exercising their rights, he said. About 100 Illinois state troopers were also being call in to help.
While most of the state moved to the next phase of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan, Chicago is waiting until this Wednesday to allow some stores to reopen and outdoor service for bars and restaurants.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said concerns over protests spreading COVID-19, along with weekend violence, could delay those changes.
“I’m absolutely worried about a potential outbreak as a result of what we saw yesterday, thousands of people, cheek to jowl, in small spaces is exactly the opposite of what we’ve been preaching about for ten weeks’ time,” said Lightfoot.
She added since asymptomatic individuals can spread the disease, those who turned out may be unaware of the danger. The mayor also said she will be in touch with public health officials about reopening.
On Sunday, the state announced 1,343 new COVID-19 cases with 60 additional deaths.