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Governor Pritzker announces stay-at-home order beginning 5:00pm Saturday, March 21

Essential services will stay open, including grocery stores

by Melanie Jongsma

CHICAGO, Ill. (March 20, 2020) – At today’s 3:10pm news conference, Governor JB Pritzker announced that a stay-at-home order will go into effect beginning 5:00pm on Saturday, March 21. The order will remain in effect through April 7. “We believe that this gives us time to see whether social distancing is having the desired effect of ‘bending the curve,'” said Pritzker.

“For the vast majority of you already taking precautions,” the Governor reassured people, “your lives will not change very much. There is absolutely no need to rush out to a grocery story or gas station.” Essential businesses—including grocery stores (see full list below)—will continue to operate, and Illinois residents will be allowed to do necessary shopping.

“We are doing all that we can to maintain as much normalcy as possible while taking the steps that we must to protect you,” said the Governor.

Governor Pritzker arrived at this decision after consulting with medical experts, epidemiologists, mathematicians, and modelers to understand the progression of COVID-19 and the measures needed to keep Illinoisans safe. Based on the evidence and the experience of other countries, the most effective strategy available is mitigation, which means limiting the increase in cases to ensure our healthcare system has capacity to treat those who become ill. The most aggressive tactic in this strategy is a stay-at-home order, which the administration is now implementing.


Regarding enforcing the stay-at-home order, the Governor appealed to citizens’ sense of community responsibility. “To be honest, we don’t have the resources, the capacity, or the desire to police every individual’s behavior,” he said. “Enforcement comes in many forms, and our first and best option is to rely on Illinoisans to be good members of their communities and good citizens working together to keep each other safe.”

“We don’t know yet all the steps we are going to have to take to get this virus under control,” he added.

As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot took the stand, she thanked the Governor for his leadership throughout a series of difficult decisions. “These are choices that must be made for the good of all of our residents,” she said. “The coronavirus will not go away by happenstance. We must be intentional about taking steps to flatten the curve…. We can only save lives and blunt the spread of this virus by keeping as many people as practical at home and safe.”

“And let’s be clear,” Lightfoot added, “this has to be a two-way street. While the responsibility of our government is to build a plan, your personal responsibility is to take all necessary precautions to keep yourself safe and stay at home.”

Extreme measures

Dr. Emily Landon, Lead Epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine, took the podium and emphasized some of the reasons the extreme measures are necessary. “This virus spreads before you even know you’ve caught it,” she said, mentioning also that it mimics a regular flu, which can lead to people underestimating the danger and the necessary precautions. No vaccine is available, so distance is the only way to prevent infection.

“We do amazing things to save patients in our American hospitals and across the world every single day,” said Landon, “but we can’t take care of everyone at once.” She reminded people that the numbers of cases (and deaths) being reported today are people who were infected a week ago and didn’t know it.

“A successful shelter-in-place means that you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing,” Landon. “And you’d be right. Because ‘nothing’ means that nothing happened to your family.”

Specifics of the stay-at-home-order

Essential businesses and activities
All first responders, emergency management personnel, law enforcement personnel, healthcare workers, and others working to support Essential Businesses and Essential Government Functions like grocery stores and pharmacies are exempt from the stay-at-home order.

The stay-at-home order permits a range of activities that will allow Illinoisans to get their necessities while maintaining social distance from others.

Essential activities include but are not limited to:

  • For health and safety: seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication, or visiting a healthcare professional
  • For necessary supplies and services: obtaining groceries, food, household consumer products, supplies needed to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
  • For outdoor activity: walking, hiking, running, or biking—including going to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, except for playgrounds
  • For certain types of work: Providing essential products and services at Essential Businesses or Operations or otherwise carrying out activities specifically permitted in the order, including Minimum Basic Operations
  • To take care of others: caring for or transporting a family member, friend, or pet in another household

Essential Government Functions
Essential Government Functions include all services provided by state and local governments needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This Executive Order does not apply to the United States government.

Essential Businesses and Operations:

  • Healthcare and Public Health Operations: working at or obtaining services from hospitals, clinics, dental offices, pharmacies, public health entities, healthcare manufacturers and suppliers, blood banks, medical cannabis facilities, reproductive healthcare providers, eye care centers, home healthcare services providers, mental health and substance use providers, and ancillary healthcare services including veterinary care. Fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and similar facilities are not considered ancillary healthcare services.
  • Human Services Operations: any provider funded by DHS, DCFS or Medicaid; long-term care facilities; home-based and residential settings for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with disabilities or mental illness; transitional facilities; field offices for food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services, or rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services and other necessities of life for needy individuals—excluding day care centers, day care homes, group day care homes, and day care centers licensed as specified in Section 12(s) of the order
  • Essential Infrastructure: working in food production, distribution, and sale; construction; building management and maintenance; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, and gas; electrical; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; roads, highways, railroads, and public transportation; ports; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
  • Media
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
  • Financial institutions
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades, including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers that maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services
  • Educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises
  • Supplies to work from home
  • Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations
  • Transportation, for purposes of Essential Travel
  • Home-based care and services
  • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Professional services
  • Day care centers for employees exempted by this Executive Order
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries
  • Critical labor union functions
  • Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services
  • Funeral services

All non-essential business and operations must cease, aside from Minimum Basic Operations. Business can continue with employees working from home. Minimum Basic Operations includes the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of inventory, preserve plant and equipment condition, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits and facilitate employees working remotely.

The order also closes licensed child care centers and all childcare homes serving more than six children. The Pritzker administration is working to expand the availability of child care for essential workers, while protecting the health of the children and child care teachers and home providers. A new Emergency Child Care Center license is being created with more flexibility but much smaller group sizes to ensure social distancing for children in care.

Essential travel

Only essential travel is permitted at this time and must be done in accordance with social distancing requirements. That includes travel related to:

  • Performing Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Businesses and Operations or Minimum Basic Operations
  • Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or other vulnerable persons
  • Receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services from an educational institution
  • Returning to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction
  • Following the direction of law enforcement or court order, including to transport children pursuant to a custody agreement
  • Returning to a place of residence outside the State for non-residents
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.