Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is warning local governments that there could be consequences if they disobey the state’s “stay-at-home” order amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
With numerous communities seeking permission to move forward into phase three of the state’s reopening plan, and with some counties, including downstate Madison County, saying they will move ahead in defiance of the order, Pritzker said that numerous enforcement actions remain available to him, including withholding federal funding.
“Businesses and individual professionals that are licensed by state agencies can be held accountable for defying public health orders,” he said. “Counties that try to reopen in defiance will not be reimbursed by FEMA for damage they cause themselves. Local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police can and will take action.”
The threat of withholding federal funding is not unique to Illinois. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said that counties that disobeyed his stay-at-home order would not receive federal stimulus funds earmarked to assist counties impacted by the coronavirus.
Pritzker said Tuesday that he would consider similar measures, and on Wednesday threw down a gauntlet to state officials and lawmakers that are looking to operate their governments in defiance of protocols.
“You weren’t elected to do what is easy. You were elected to do what’s right,” he said. “I don’t have sympathy for those so intent on disregarding science and logic, so afraid to tell their communities what they don’t want to hear, that they put people’s lives at risk.”
While most of Illinois appears set to move forward into phase three of the reopening on May 29, Pritzker said that officials should remain vigilant, as another wave of the virus could cause more stringent restrictions to be put back into place.
“There is no consequence I can impose that is greater than the harm you will do to your own communities,” Pritzker said. “I don’t know how to make this more real for you. More people will get sick and die if we don’t stay the course. Be a responsible public servant. Step up and lead. Now, more than ever, your communities need you. Don’t let them down.”
On Tuesday, Illinois reported its single highest increase in coronavirus cases, with more than 4,000 new cases reported. On Wednesday, the state reported its highest single-day increase in deaths, with 192 fatalities attributed to the virus.
Even still, three of Illinois’ four hospital regions are poised to move forward into phase three of the state’s reopening plan on May 29. Three criteria are used to determine whether to move forward, including positivity rate, ventilator usage and hospitalization rates due to the virus.
Of the four regions, only the Northeast region of the state, which includes Chicago and a group of suburban counties, is not currently eligible, as their positivity rate remains too high. The region still has time to get the rate below 20 percent ahead of the May 29 deadline, but that rate would have to remain below that threshold for a 14-day span in order to qualify.