CHICAGO — Businesses could faces fines up to $2,500 under new rules being pushed by Gov. JB Pritzker if they don’t enforce mask wearing and gathering size limits.
The governor announced the proposal Friday morning, saying while Illinois has made progress in its fight against coronavirus, “the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly” are putting others at risk.
The state has a mandate requiring people wear masks in public indoor places — like businesses — and in other places where they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing from other people.
Businesses also have strict occupancy limits: either 50 percent of their normal occupancy or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
Most people and businesses have complied with these restrictions, which are meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Pritzker said. But he wants to crack down on businesses that aren’t following those rules.
The fines would not apply to individual staff or customers. Rather, they are targeted at businesses that don’t enforce the state’s rules.
The order was filed as an emergency update to Illinois Department of Public Health rules. It must be approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight commission.
Pritzker said he had hoped the General Assembly would take action on a mask fine, but it has not, so he moved forward with proposing an administrative rule.
“These rules will help ensure the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward,” Pritzker said.
The rule would actually create gentler penalties for businesses than what were in place before, Pritzker said.
Before, businesses that repeatedly violated the state’s coronavirus rules could have their licenses revoked, which would force them to shut down — possibly permanently. Now, authorities would instead be able to warn and fine businesses before taking more serious steps.
Pritzker said the rules call for a multi-step process, beginning with a warning. The steps are:
- First, businesses will be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance.
- Second, businesses that do not voluntarily comply will be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks.
- Third, if the business continues to refuse to comply, the business can receive a class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500.
Coronavirus peaked in mid-May and the number of new cases and deaths sharply fell for weeks afterward. But, more recently, the state’s daily number of new cases and percent positivity has begun to rise again.
Pritzker and other officials have warned people need to keep wearing masks, socially distancing, not gathering and washing their hands frequently to ensure there’s not another surge of COVID-19 in Illinois.
There’s been a particularly sharp rise of cases among younger people and among those in southern and central Illinois.
“Things are hard right now. I get that,” Pritzker said. “… But when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, we have to make sure Illinois supports all the people who call this state home.”
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