coronavirus illinois

Officials Warn of ‘Set Back' in Coronavirus Fight if Residents Gather Due to Warmer Weather

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker responds to a question after announcing that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a news conference Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Chicago.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

With warm temperatures and religious holidays looming on the horizon, Illinois officials are telling residents to continue abiding by the state’s “stay-at-home” order, warning that violations of that order could have a devastating impact on the fight to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In a Monday press conference, Dr. Ngozi Ezike pleaded with Illinois residents to stay home in spite of temperatures that will climb into the mid-70s on Tuesday.

“I assure you if people congregate tomorrow, we will set the state back in our fight against COVID-19,” she said. “It should be assumed that COVID-19 is occurring in every zip code in Illinois. We must always be disciplined to ensure that we remain safe, we must continue to stay home, and we must practice our social distancing.”

Governor J.B. Pritzker echoed those sentiments, urging residents not to congregate in outdoor spaces because of the forecasted weather.

“Please do not go congregate in the park,” he said. “It’s fine to walk outside of your home, but do not go meet people.”

Pritzker was asked if the state was considering additional measures to limit gatherings of people, similar to enforcement measures instituted by the city of Chicago, but said he’s trying to respect people’s civil rights while also trying to keep them safe.

“There’s a balance between trying not to impose on everyone’s civil liberties and trying to defeat this virus,” he said. “We’re evaluating that every day. If people are just not living by the rules, we’ll have to enforce them to a greater extent, especially around the holidays.”

In Chicago, police have begun ticketing groups of people gathered in parks and other public places, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the closure of the Lakefront Trail and The 606 running trail to help prevent gatherings.

Pritzker was especially concerned about residents gathering to celebrate upcoming religious holidays, including Easter and Passover. While most churches and synagogues plan to livestream services, Pritzker urged the public to take warnings about the coronavirus seriously and not to gather in celebration of the upcoming holy days.

“It’s important where you have to look for another way to gather with family,” he said. “I think we’re all going to experiencing the holidays in a very unusual way this year, but it’s very important that you stay home. It’s very important that you don’t gather in a place of worship or in somebody’s home with others. We’ve got to protect each other.

“This will not last forever, but this is one Easter or Passover you’re going to have to do something different,” he added.

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a decree Sunday saying that Catholics were dispensed from their Easter obligations, including receiving communion and offering confession. Other churches have switched to livestreaming services as a result of the state’s “stay-at-home” order.

Pritzker offered a message of unity, saying that shared sacrifice is the key to stemming the spread of coronavirus in the state of Illinois.

“We are all in this together and we all need to step up and stand together,” he said.

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