Illinois COVID-19 Update Sunday March 15: Gov. Pritzker Addresses Crisis at O’Hare, Bars and Restaurants to Close Monday

Update (3:30pm): 

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has ordered all bars and restaurants to close through at least March 30th, beginning Monday night, March 16th. 

“There are no easy decisions to left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis,” Pritzker said at his daily afternoon press conference to update the public on COVID-19. “Every choice that we face now is hard, and it comes with real consequences for our residents. As your governor I cannot let the gravity of these choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and experts say will keep people safe.”

Pritzker said that his administration is working with restaurant owners and food delivery services statewide to see if they can keep their kitchens open for home delivery. In addition, drive-through and curbside pickup will be allowed for now. 

Pritkzer said that it was “unfortunate” the administration’s earlier efforts to persuade people to stay home weren’t taken seriously. 

“The time for persuasion and public appeals is over, the time for action is here,” he said. “This is not a joke. No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people of this state.” 

Pritzker added that he hoped to hear “a whole bunch of complaints” that the state overreacted and took too aggressive action. “That will have meant we survived all of this with the best possible outcome, saving people’s lives,” he added.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 29 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 93 in 13 counties across Illinois. 

COVID-19 cases in Illinois as of Sunday, March 15th. Provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that like Pritzker, she’s had “very blunt and candid conversations” with officials at the White House and Homeland security. She said she urged the Federal Government to listen to local officials. 

“Mayors and governors, we are all on the front lines of making sure we’re implementing federal directives and that they would be well served to listen to us about the consequences those directives will have on a local level,” Lightfoot said. 

The mayor added that more personnel was needed at O’Hare Airport, and that firefighters and EMTs would be deputized to help screenings. 

“They need to get more personnel at customs and border patrol,” said Lightfoot. “We don’t need more ICE members, we need more screeners at the airports.”

Lightfoot also addressed St. Patrick’s Day revelers specifically, urging them to stay home.

“This year, this time is different. It must be different to save lives,” she said. “I do not want to see hoards of people in the streets. Please stay home and be safe.”

Original story (published Sunday, March 15th at 12:00pm)

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said he’s considering closing all bars and restaurants in the state, as many have ignored warnings to stay away from crowded areas and other advice to practice social distancing over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. 

“We’re actually looking hard at that decision making today,” Pritzker said on NBC’s Meet The Press. “We obviously saw what happened in Europe,” Pritzker said. “Nowhere in the United States really has there been a lockdown on bars and restaurants, but it’s something that we’re seriously looking at.”

Pritzker’s remarks came after scores of people still went out to bars and restaurants over the weekend, despite announcements from public health officials in Chicago and Illinois warning residents to distance themselves as much as they can in physical space. All public events that would have an attendance of 1,000 or more people have been banned and those hosting events with 250 people have been advised to cancel or postpone them. Classes in all Illinois schools from K-12 have been cancelled, and many other public gathering places have at least been temporarily closed. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new measures on Sunday that the City would enforce all businesses that sell liquor to have less than half of their regular max capacity, and that any establishments selling liquor “will have a max capacity of 100 people.”

Meanwhile airports nationwide, including O’Hare Airport in Chicago, have seen chaos as travelers return en masse from countries impacted by the travel restrictions announced from by the Trump administration. 

Thousands of travelers were packed shoulder to shoulder inside O’Hare Saturday night and Sunday morning in hours-long lines waiting to get through customs and baggage claim.

Though the Trump administration said it had issued new guidelines for screening, it provided no additional support in personnel. The situation became so dire Saturday evening Pritzker tweeted that the federal government “needs to get its s@#t together.  NOW.”

Pritkzer said he received a call from a White House staffer about his tweet, but not about any additional measures being taken by the administration to mitigate the crisis in the airport. 

“I got a call at about 11:00 last night after that tweet from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That is what I got,” said Pritzker.

The Governor also said that the lack of personnel directly contributed to the situation. 

“We knew when the president gave the orders that European travel to the United States was going to be cut off that there would be an influx of people – Americans and others – that would come before the final cutoff,” Pritzker said. “They should’ve increased the customs and border patrol numbers. They should’ve increased the number of CDC personnel on the ground doing those checks. They did neither of those.”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois stands at 66, a number that will more than likely increase once again on Sunday. Health officials recommend distancing practices which include staying away from large crowds and keeping at least a 6 foot distance from the personal space of others. 

“While this is a growing number for us, we know that many more people are … requesting testing,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said on Friday. “We are starting to see laboratory results from commercial labs, which means we could see a dramatic increase in the number of positives over the coming days and weeks.”

The Pritzker administration’s daily press conference on COVID-19 will begin Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm. For more information please visit the Illinois Department of Public Health

Aaron Cynic
Aaron Cynic
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