CHICAGO — A downstate judge granted a temporary injunction against Gov. JB Pritzker’s latest stay at home order Monday after a state representative sued the governor, saying he had exceeded his powers.
Though the ruling only applies to one Republican lawmaker for now, it could have broader implications for the rest of the state if more suits are filed.
The afternoon ruling by Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney puts Pritzker’s stay at home order in jeopardy. The order, put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, is scheduled to run through May 30.
Republican State Rep. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, filed a lawsuit against Pritzker last week claiming the extension of the stay at home order was a violation of his civil rights.
The judge in downstate Louisville ruled in Bailey’s favor Monday. Pritzker said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is already preparing to get a stay and to fight the suit so the order can still be enforced.
Lifting the stay at home order could lead to more people become infected with COVID-19 and dying as a result, Pritzker said during a Monday press conference.
“Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try to dismantle public health directives to try to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis. And it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness,” Pritzker said. “At best, no one is better off because of this ruling; and at worst, people’s health and safety may suffer tremendously … .”
Just last week, two scientists who have worked with Pritzker explained their models show lifting the stay at home order April 24 would lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases that would quickly overwhelm the state’s health care system. They predicted thousands of people would die daily in Illinois just by the end of May if the order wasn’t extended.
But Bailey said Pritzker had “overextended his power” by extending the stay at home order.
The order was enacted March 21 and was originally set to expire April 7, but Pritzker extended it through April 30.
The order being blocked is Pritzker’s latest stay at home measure, which had extended stay at home through May 30.
“My lawsuit asks the court to find that Gov. Pritzker overextended his power by issuing additional ‘stay at home’ orders after his original disaster proclamation, which expired on April 9th, 2020,” Bailey told WREX. “Enough is enough! I filed this lawsuit on behalf of myself and my constituents who are ready to go back to work and resume a normal life.”
Pritzker sharply criticized Bailey for filing the suit, saying the legislator had put people throughout state in danger. He said disasters like the coronavirus crisis don’t “evaporate” after 30 days, which had necessitated keeping stay at home going through May.
“People are in danger as a result of this ruling, of the judge’s ruling, of the suite that was brought by Darren Bailey. We’re certainly gonna act in a swift fashion to have this ruling overturned. Certainly put a stay in place,” Pritzker said. “Frankly, it’s insulting, it’s dangerous. And people’s safety and health has now been put at risk. There may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done.”
In the interim, Pritzker said his administration will send out new public health directives. He encouraged local leaders and Illinoisans to follow the advice of scientists and doctors — who have encouraged people to stay home, practice social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands.
“… Painful as our actions might be, the question boils down to life and death,” Pritzker said. “The stay at home order has prevented tens of thousands of illnesses and thousands of deaths. History will remember those who put politics aside to come together to keep people safe. It will also remember those who, so blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity, that they made an enemy of science and reason.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the ruling “troubling and wrong.”
“One of the many problems with this ill-advised opinion is that it will destroy the collective progress we have made, giving Illinoisans the wrong impression that we have beaten the COVID-19 pandemic,” the mayor said in a statement.
“… Nothing about today’s ruling will change the City’s intention to continue imposing the Stay at Home restrictions. “
State Senate President Don Harmon urged people to continue to stay at home.
“Today’s ruling doesn’t change the fact that nearly 2,000 Illinoisans have died from this disease in recent weeks and thousands more remain hospitalized, struggling to maintain their health,” the senate president said in a statement.
“I would appeal to everyone’s common sense. A dangerous, highly infectious virus is loose in our communities. You have stayed inside and practiced social distancing because you know it’s the right thing to do. You’ve done it because you care about your family, friends and neighbors. Today’s ruling doesn’t change any of that.
“This virus isn’t paying attention to judicial orders. Please, be patient, recognize the dangers and keep following the advice of our medical professionals and public health experts.”
Shortly before the ruling was made, Pritzker used his press conference to tell listeners in downstate Illinois they should not think of the coronavirus pandemic or the stay at home measures as a “Chicago problem.”
Extremely small groups of protesters have called for Pritzker to lift the stay at home order, with some saying rural areas of Illinois were unfairly suffering under social distancing measures because of the virus’s spread in Chicago.
But southern and central Illinois are being hit hard, too, Pritzker said Monday.
“COVID-19 knows no county or regional boundaries,” Pritzker said. “It’s clear that some people are simply looking at the number of cases in a county and not looking at the infection rate.”
Pritzker noted that while Cook County and Chicago might have the most cases in the state, they’re also the most densely populated areas of Illinois.
Coronavirus has killed people in 42 counties across Illinois, Pritzker said. Two of the the state’s top five counties by infection rate are downstate, he said, and the two counties with the most deaths per capita are Jasper and Monroe.
“That means you’re more likely to die of COVID-19 if you live in either of those two counties than if you live in either Chicago or Cook County,” he said. “It would be doing a massive disservice to our downstate residence if we governed only by raw numbers. No matter where you live, I want you to be healthy and safe.”
Pritzker has said officials are looking at reopening Illinois on a regional basis — though that would mean counties in central and southern Illinois that have been hit hard by coronavirus would still need restrictions to prevent deaths and cases, just like Chicago with its “hot spot” of cases does.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.