On March 12, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a state-wide mandate to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The written announcement is available here.
Effectively immediately, all large-scale events of more than 1,000 people are to be cancelled for the following 30 days. The City of Chicago has announced that it will be enforcing this ban. In addition, Governor Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot are “encouraging” community events of 250 people or more to be cancelled or postponed until May 1, including personal and social events. For events less than 250 people, Illinois residents are urged to “closely consider who is likely to attend the event and, if it includes vulnerable populations, strongly consider canceling.”
There are no listed exceptions, such as for large religious meetings. Rather, the mandate and “encouragement” are directed as a matter of public safety, pursuant to state and local governments’ general “police powers” providing authority to regulate for the public health, safety, and welfare.
Additionally, per Governor Pritzker’s announcement, employers should allow their employees to work remotely when feasible. For those who cannot make such arrangements, employers are encouraged to take proper precautions for health and safety. “This includes reminding staff to stay home when sick or with a fever; considering a plan for teleworking where feasible; remaining flexible on leave policies; and promoting robust mitigation approaches, such as hand washing, cleaning, and offering hand sanitizer.”
Governor Pritzker’s announcement also addresses elections (proceeding as scheduled on March 17, 2020), government offices (generally open), and vulnerable populations (warranting “extra caution when attending gatherings of any size and avoid exposure to large groups of people whenever possible”). We note too that Governor Pritzker issued another announcement today, March 13, 2020, mandating closure of all public and private K-12 schools in Illinois.
Given these recent announcements, religious houses of worship, social service providers, and employers should comply with the state mandate, consider the “encouragement,” and take all other appropriate precautionary measures. Private religious schools should also comply with the Governor’s mandate to close.
The Illinois Department of Public Health also has a statewide COVID-19 hotline and website to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case: call 1-800-889-3931 or visit IDPH.illinois.gov.
The state and federal governments’ response to the coronavirus is rapidly evolving. We will provide additional updates relevant to non-profit organizations and churches as information becomes available.