Illinois businesses that do not enforce public health requirements can fined up to $2,500 under a new set of emergency rules that Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will file those emergency rules to give local health departments and law enforcement agencies "more leeway" in enforcing the state's mask mandate and social gathering restrictions, Pritzker said at a news conference.
The rules apply to businesses, schools and child care establishments, Pritzker said - changing the existing enforcement laws that he called "stringent and severe," like revoking a license for not complying.
The process will be as follows, per Pritzker's office:
- 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.
The rules do not apply to individuals, Pritzker said, and will not exceed a misdemeanor and a $75 to $2,500 fine. Both law enforcement agencies as well as local health departments will be authorized to enforce the rules, Pritzker said.
"This is one way for us to make sure that businesses that have been scofflaws on the subject know that there is a real penalty at the end of the line here," Pritzker said.
Pritzker noted that he's encouraged municipalities to institute stricter enforcement mechanisms of their own, and that the places that have done so have seen success in compliance.
"The municipalities that have been responsible about this did this some time ago, they made sure they had some even stricter enforcement typically than what we're proposing here," he said, adding, "But we wanted to make sure that there is a minimum enforcement mechanism for every county and every municipality across the state. This is it."
Pritzker's administration plans to file the emergency order with the new rules, though it will require approval from the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which meets next week.
"As I’ve visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it’s clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks – especially to protect frontline workers, whether they’re at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they’re responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines. Illinois has made substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19 because the vast majority of communities and business owners have done the right thing. These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward," Pritzker continued.
Pritzker said while many businesses already enforce the mask mandate, some even putting employees outside to ensure customers coming in are wearing face coverings, "there are some businesses that aren't doing that and they need to be reminded and reminded and then fined if they are not following this rule for the state of Illinois."
On Thursday, Illinois reported its highest number of daily cases in recent weeks.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state saw 1,953 new cases in 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 188,424.
The number is the highest daily case increase since May 24, which saw more than 2,500 new cases in a single day. That date also reported significantly fewer test results, however.