Illinois increases penalties for violating order, but push back grows

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Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (Photo via Good Free Photos)

Even as the state government increases the penalties for businesses reopening too early, people across the state plan to defy the stay-at-home order

CHICAGO — On Friday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker filed an emergency rule that would increase the penalty for businesses that reopen too early.

According to WTTW, a Chicago PBS station, the change would codify it under Illinois Department of Public Health regulations as a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine between $75 and $2,500.

People who are opposing the continuing shelter-in-place orders cried foul.

“These rules are a legal overreach and beyond the scope of the Governor’s authority,” Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said in a statement sent to WTTW. “It will be a dark day in Illinois when we charge small businesses with a jailable crime for salvaging their livelihoods.”

Pritzker’s attorney, Ann Spillane, told the TV station that the charge would be aimed at businesses, not individuals. And it was less dramatic than other actions.

“[It’s] very mild, like a traffic ticket … nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed. But they are getting a citation where they would have to go to court,” she said.

Which didn’t stop people from saying they wouldn’t enforce the rule change or defying it.

DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said on Sunday that he wouldn’t enforce it. The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights reported that he thinks DuPage is ready to reopen responsibly and he won’t “victimize” lawful residents “trying to put food on their children’s table.”

“We are dealing with a serious rise in crime, new challenges in our correctional facility and a massive upsurge in our courthouse when everything opens back up,” Mendrick wrote on social media. “We will rise to the challenge. This is not the time to introduce fear into our society by threatening class A misdemeanors.”

The Daily Herald reported that Mendrick’s statement came after similar ones from the sheriffs of McHenry and Kane counties.

“This is not political,” Mendrick told the newspaper. “I have no intention of defying him. I’m simply saying we don’t have this problem here. And I don’t want to create a problem where one does not exist. And I certainly will not threaten my public.

In Springfield, a hair salon order said she was opening on Tuesday despite the order.

“We feel as if this has been going on for way too long,” Riley Craig Shaffer, owner of Bow + Arrow Salon, told The State Journal-Register.

The newspaper reported that Shaffer’s lawyer, Thomas DeVore, sent a letter to Sangamon County about her plans. DeVore has also represented State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) in his lawsuit against Pritzker over the stay-at-home order.

From the Journal-Register:

Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne, the city’s point person on coronavirus, said he spoke with Shaffer two weeks ago.

“She was very nice,” he said. “She was upset, but she was not upset with me.” He said she didn’t think the continuing shut-down was the best path forward and thought she had a reasonable business plan. He said he referred her to state officials, and also said, “We’re policy enforcers, not always policy makers.”

“I understand her frustration,” Reyne said. “I’m not an attorney … but I don’t believe violating the governor’s order is the right tactic to get this changed…. For the most part, the business community has understood that the city has a job to do, and we’re trying to help them succeed, to help keep people safe during a global pandemic.”

He said one possible move would be for the county health department to issue a cease and desist letter.

Peoria NPR station WCBU reported that county health departments are encountering hostility as the shutdown becomes more political.

From WCBU:

It’s getting harder for health departments to convince people who were in contact with a positive COVID-19 patient to stay at home and self-quarantine.

That’s according to Stephanie Wurmrest, one of two nurses working in alternating shifts seven days a week at the Woodford County Health Department in Eureka to conduct contact tracing and other coronavirus-related work.

“I think it’s just going to be harder as it goes on to get people to agree to quarantining or isolating. Isolation’s not been so bad, because those people know they’re positive. People that have been asked to quarantine are getting a little bit more hostile with us because they don’t necessarily know who they’ve been in contact with when we call them,” she said.

On Tuesday, the IDPH announced 1,545 new cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in Illinois, including 146 additional deaths. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 98,030 cases, including 4,379 deaths, in 100 counties in Illinois. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 18,443 specimens for a total of 621,684.  The statewide 7-day rolling positivity rate, May 10-16, 2020 is 14%.

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