State issues emergency rules for mask enforcement in businesses

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — One day after the state announced more than 1,900 new COVID-19 cases, Gov. JB Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued new emergency rules aimed at heightening the ability of local government entities to enforce the use of face masks in businesses.

Pritzker clarified that the new rules are not punitive measures for individuals, but rather businesses in the minority “who refuse to act responsibly.”

“I’ve said all along I do not want police to be arrested people or arresting individuals,” he said. “On the other hand, I’ve asked local authorities…to remind people as frequently as they possibly can that they need to follow this.”

The new rules from IDPH provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, giving local health departments and local law enforcement more leeway to support community public health in a productive manner, according to a press release from Pritzker’s office. While existing, pre-pandemic enforcement laws, like revoking a license, are stringent and severe, these rules provide flexibility for local communities and a measured process to help keep people safe.   

That process is as follows:  

  • 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. 

These rules do not apply to individuals and penalties will not exceed a misdemeanor and a $75-$2,500 fine.   

Pritzker also said that he has signed Senate Bill 471 to expand workplace protections in the wake of COVID-19. To directly protect workers in retail, 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, according to a press release from the governor’s office..

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

More specifically, eligible employees include: 

  • Any part-time or full-time State correctional officer or any other full or part-time employee of the Department of Corrections 
  • Any full or part-time employee of the Prisoner Review Board 
  • Any full or part-time employee of the Department of Human Services working within a penal institution or a State mental health or developmental disabilities facility operated by the Department of Human Services 
  • Any full-time law enforcement officer or full-time firefighter

SB 471 takes effect immediately.  

“We have to make sure that Illinois supports all the people who call the state home,” he said in conclusion. “And when he prioritize our first responders and our workforce, when we put public health above politics, when we choose to keep our neighbors and our loved ones, safe and our businesses are open — that’s what it means to be ‘All in Illinois.'”

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