After Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced he will extend the state’s stay-at-home order until May 30, a central Illinois state representative filed a lawsuit in Clay County asserting that Pritzker has overstepped his authority.
State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, said the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 1,900 people in Illinois is more of a problem in and around Chicago. Counties and their local health departments should establish the guidelines for who should stay at home, which businesses can operate and other actions to contain the spread of COVID-19, Bailey said in an interview.
“They’re the ones that really hold the power when it comes to a health crisis or situation,” said Bailey, who represents the 109th House District, which covers all or parts of Clay, Edwards, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, White and Wayne counties.
A hearing on Bailey’s lawsuit was scheduled for Monday afternoon in Clay County.
Pritzker said that beginning May 1, anyone over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate a mask will be required to wear one when in public places where they can’t maintain six feet of separation from others.
He said retail stores not currently deemed “essential” may take orders online or by phone and offer pickup and delivery. The new order will make it more explicit that garden centers can be open with social distancing rules in place. State parks and lakes will also be allowed to open with social distancing rules.
“Folks, this is a battle that you never asked to fight – I know that,” the governor said. “I also know that our doctors and our nurses and our health care professionals never asked to lead us through a pandemic. Our essential workers never asked to man the front lines of society. Our small businesses never asked to sacrifice their bottom line to an invisible enemy.”
New social distancing guidance is planned for existing essential businesses as well, which also in May must adhere to a new cap on customers allowed inside at one time.
Illinoisans forced to postpone surgeries and tests so hospitals could increase capacity for COVID-19 patients will be able to begin rescheduling some of them. Both Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike declined to specify which procedures are still under a moratorium.
Before health care centers can begin performing surgeries, their officials must meet the state health department’s “exact specifications,” Pritzker said. Hospitals must have enough personal protective gear and ensure bed capacity is sufficient to handle new COVID-19 patients. Potential procedure recipients must also be proven to not have the virus.
Meanwhile, Bailey filed the lawsuit as a private citizen and is paying for it himself because he said like-minded lawmakers have no legislative recourse to oppose the governor.
“There’s nothing we can do as Republicans,” he said. “We’re in the superminority.”
Bailey’s lawsuit argues that the state Emergency Management Act gives the governor just 30 days worth of emergency powers and that has been exceeded. It asks the court to declare subsequent orders by the governor void.
“I’ve got nine grandchildren and four children and I want them to be able to live and thrive in Illinois,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he understands the tremendous pressure the closure has put on businesses across his district because he owns Bailey Family Farm, Bailey Family Freight and BNB Excavating. His daughter is a hairstylist – not essential under Pritzker’s order.
“Right here in Louisville there’s four hair shops, or salons, right around here in this little area,” Bailey said. “It’s taken its toll. I’ve had men calling my office breaking down in tears because they don’t know what to do. They’re out of work. One wasn’t even able to apply for unemployment yet because the state’s lines are so messed up.”
Pritzker said during his daily press conference that sacrifices are necessary to save lives.
“For every person who wants to go to dinner or hang with friends in a park or swing open their salon doors, there is a family mourning the death of someone they love,” Pritzker said. “There is a parent, a child, a friend who would give anything to have their greatest strain be the difficulties of staying home – and not the unimaginable pain of a life lost too soon.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Sunday announced 59 more lives lost from the virus since Saturday as residents died in six counties. That brings Illinois’ total COVID-19 impact to 43,903 confirmed cases in 96 of 102 counties and 1,933 total deaths.
Of the 4,595 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state as of midnight Sunday, Pritzker said, 1,267 are in an intensive care unit, with 772 on ventilators.