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Illinois Business Owners Who Try To Reopen Early Can Now Be Charged With Misdemeanors

People who are charged would be fined $75-$2,500.

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CHICAGO — Business owners who open their doors in defiance of the stay at home order can now be charged with a misdemeanor.

The new punishment went into effect Friday as the state looks for ways to keep businesses in line with the stay at home order.

Currently, restaurants, bars, offices and most retail shops are closed under the order in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But there’s been more pushback to that in recent weeks as people have held Reopen Illinois rallies Downtown and in Springfield. Some business owners have said they’ll open regardless of the order.

The change makes it so violators can be charged with a misdemeanor, which would mean they’d be fined $75-$2,500.

Previously, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state would enforce the order by threatening to remove licenses from businesses or to even shut them down. The governor has also said areas that try to open up could lose funding.

Some lawmakers pushed back on the change over the weekend, telling WTTW charging people with misdemeanors was an overstep and there wasn’t enough oversight.

But the administration says it is still focused on talking with people and educating them about compliance rather than charging anyone, and local officials will have discretion on charges, according to WTTW.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also stepped up enforcement of the order. She’s threatened to fine people who host parties and tow the cars of those who attend them.

And this weekend, when an Albany Park church held services in defiance of the order, the mayor said such services could result in fines. The city also tried to block parking around the church.

The governor’s rule comes just a few weeks before many businesses will be able to reopen. Every part of the state is currently on track to enter Phase 3 of Pritzker’s reopening plan at the end of May.

During Phase 3, manufacturing, offices, retail and salons will be able to reopen.

Restaurants and bars will have to wait to reopen until Phase 4, which would mean the earliest possible date they could reopen would be the end of June.

Lightfoot has a press conference at 9 a.m. and Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 94,191 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Sunday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 4,177 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 36,669 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,658 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

• Hilco Demolition: Faced with protests at her doorstep and opposition from aldermen, Lightfoot called off an emergency demolition at the old Crawford coal plant in Little Village.

• Belmont Cragin: With coronavirus cases surging to an “unbelievable” level in Belmont Cragin, the city is finally opening a new testing site in the mostly Latino neighborhood.

• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.

• I Grow Chicago: The group is raising money to better help Black Chicagoans who are struggling during the pandemic.

• Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

 Street Vendors: Street vendors are seeing sales plummet — but they have few, if any, options for emergency relief. Volunteers are raising money to help families, many of them undocumented, who are struggling.

• Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

 Armory: The Broadway Armory has become an emergency homeless shelter as city officials try to alleviate crowding at existing facilities and protect people who are homeless from coronavirus.

• Therapy: The Center on Halsted is launching virtual therapy groups to support LGBTQ people during the coronavirus pandemic.

• Unemployment: 1099 and gig workers can now file claims for unemployment.

• Keep Isolating: It’s not safe to start expanding your “quarantine circle,” doctors said.

• Help for Artists: The statewide Artist Relief Fund is again taking applications.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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