The decision was made on Friday afternoon. Pritzker said the schools will be closed down starting on Tuesday, March 17 until the end of the month.
“We will close all public schools,” Pritzker told the Chicago Sun-Times and other news outlets. “To be clear, I understand the gravity of this action, and what it means for every community in our state,” he said. “This is the right thing to do, to protect our students and their teachers, school workers and parents.”
The closures will protect students, teachers, and other staff, he explained.
“It will have a massive effect on bending this curve, and that means lives saved,” said the governor. “This is a critical part of our larger social distancing efforts… We have teachers, parents and the larger population to consider.”
He made the announcement in Chicago, where more than 355,000 students attend public schools. It affects nearly 2 million students across Illinois, according to The Associated Press.
Earlier in the day, the Chicago Teachers Union had called for the closure.
Pritzker’s decision follows ones made by other states, including Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and more. “We know this will impact families. We understand the sacrifice this will entail, but this is the right thing to do,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday.
On Friday, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the closure of all public and private schools from March 17 until March 24 as the state grapples with a particularly severe outbreak of COVID-19 in the Seattle area that has killed several dozen people, according to the News-Tribune.