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Illinois governor issues ‘shelter-in-place’ order to help stop coronavirus pandemic

Governor JB Pritzker activates approximately 200 Soldiers to State Active Duty for flood fighting operations. Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 123 Field Artillery Regiment were notified of the activation last night (Wednesday) and began reporting to their units in Milan, Galesburg and Springfield today (Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton/WikiCommons)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an order Friday telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7.

“My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision. “To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois.”

The governor emphasized that residents will still be able to make essential trips such as going to the grocery store, gas station, doctor, hospital or pharmacy, and crucial workers will still be able to do their jobs.

Pritzker said there is no need to rush to the grocery store and hoard food. The grocery stores will remain open. People will still be allowed to exercise outside. Roads, bridges and transit will remain open. Pritzker said he would also ask municipalities to halt evictions.

“For the vast majority of you already taking precautions, life will not change,” Pritzker said. “We are doing all we can to maintain as much normalcy as possible.”

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“If you can work from home and aren’t already doing so, now is the time,” he added.

The stay-at-home order is “not a lockdown or Martial Law,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, referring to the law that allows the military to control civilian functions.

Anyone violating the order could face legal consequences, but law enforcement will focus on educating citizens, Lightfoot said. Pritzker said he expects most people to comply.

A main goal of the order is to avoid overwhelming hospitals, said infectious disease specialist Dr. Emily Landon. Staying at home as much as possible prevents contagious people from spreading the disease.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state is exploring the possibility of reopening closed hospitals.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth issued a joined statement following Pritzker’s announcement.

“Governor Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. This pandemic will continue to disrupt our daily lives, but it is more important than ever for all Illinoisans to follow official health and safety guidance, practice social distancing, and do everything in their power to avoid infecting themselves and others in their community. Our actions today will save lives tomorrow.”

At a news conference in Belleville on Wednesday, Pritzker said he was considering a lockdown similar to those in European countries such as Italy.

The governor of California issued a similar lockdown order on Thursday.

As of Friday, there were 585 COVID-19 cases in 25 counties in Illinois.

Five people have died so far from coronavirus in Illinois: a Cook County resident in her 70s, a Chicago woman in her 60s, a Will County resident in his 50s, a Cook County resident in her 80s and an out-of-state resident in her 70s who was in Sangamon County.

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© 2020 the Belleville News-Democrat