Illinois businesses, schools could be fined for COVID-19 violations

Springfield, IL – Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week announced new rules to fight the out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic, threatening businesses, schools and day cares with fines if they don’t enforce use of face masks and limit group sizes.

The state already requires masks for most people in public settings, but enforcement has been spotty. Now, businesses that don’t comply will get a written notice of warning. If they don’t comply, patrons will be ordered to leave the property. The next step would be class A misdemeanor fines for the businesses, ranging from $75 to $2,500.

Pritzker acted on Friday after state officials confirmed 1,953 new cases on Thursday Aug. 6, which was the biggest single-day increase since late May.

“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.

“These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a common-sense 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 said the new rules provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, giving local health departments and local law enforcement leeway to support public health departments. They also reinforce the authority of IDPH and local health departments to investigate COVID-19 cases and reaffirm that businesses have a responsibility to cooperate with those investigations.

“We know that face coverings are key to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it only works if everyone wears them,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We are seeing cases increasing each day and hearing about people not complying with the masking mandate. This rule is an effort to help keep all of us healthy and decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Pritzker also signed a new law, Senate Bill 471, to expand workplace protections. The law adds a penalty for assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face coverings or promoting social distancing.

“As our state faces the challenges created by the ongoing global pandemic, we are doing all we can to support and protect our front-line and essential workers,” said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, an assistant majority leader. “This legislation allows front-line workers who have been impacted by COVID-19 to focus on recovering while sending a clear message to all our essential workers that we are behind them and will do all we can to protect their safety and well-being.”

The law also increases paid disability leave for any injury that occurs after March 9, 2020, by 60 days for fire fighters, law enforcement and paramedics whose recovery was hindered by COVID-19.

Those eligible for the extension include full-time or part-time employees of the Department of Corrections or  Prisoner Review Board, employees of the Department of Human Services working in prisons, mental health or developmental disabilities facilities; and full-time police officers and fire fighters.

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