Businesses in Illinois that violate the state’s stay-at-home order could face fines of up to $2,500, according to a lawyer for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.
The new penalty level was implemented on May 15 when the emergency rule was filed by Pritzker, lawyer Ann Spillane told WTTW. The rule change is codified under the Illinois Department of Public Health regulations, meaning that violators will face a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $75 to $2,500 fine.
Spillane said the misdemeanor charge is aimed at businesses, not workers there. Also, there is no threat of jail time and is a “less dramatic” step, she said.
The charge is “very mild, like a traffic ticket … nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed. But they are getting a citation where they would have to go to court,” she said.
“It’s not a dramatic increase,” Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly told the news outlet. “It’s a re-articulation.”
The move was criticized by state Republicans.
“These rules are a legal overreach and beyond the scope of the governor’s authority,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin wrote in a statement on May 17, according to ABC7. “It will be a dark day in Illinois when we charge small businesses with a jailable crime for salvaging their livelihoods.”
State Rep. Keith Wheeler, a Republican, said the governor didn’t mention the rule change during his CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus briefing on May 15.
“We’re making a lot of crimes here out of a single rule with no oversight,” Wheeler said.
Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home order until the end of May, while allowing retail stores to offer curbside deliveries.
More than 96,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, and more than 4,200 deaths have been reported in Illinois as of May 18.
The measures come as President Donald Trump pushes for states to start reopening.
“Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” Trump told reporters on May 5. “But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”
For most people, the CCP virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus is by washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails before rinsing off.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.