Illinois businesses can now face fines for breaking mask rules, Pritzker says

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Illinois launches $5M ad campaign to encourage mask wearing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media after he unveiled a new mask awareness campaign called “It Only Works If You Wear It” during a news conference at the IEMA State Emergency Operations Center on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Springfield. The new $5 million awareness campaign will encourage Illinois residents to wear a face covering every time they’re in public and will be advertised on broadcast and cable television, radio, billboards and social media to the communities with the greatest risk from COVID-19. (Justin L. Fowler, The State Journal-Register via AP)

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced an emergency order Friday allowing local governments to fine businesses and schools that do not follow the state’s mask mandate and size limits aimed at curbing cases of COVID-19.

Local leaders will be able to charge organizations that consistantly break the state’s orders with with a Class A misdemeanor that comes with a fine of between $75 to $2,500. Pritzker issued a mask mandate in the state May 1, requiring most people older than 2 to wear a face covering in public, but Pritzker said more enforcement options were needed. 

“This is a make or break moment for the state of Illinois to make sure that everybody is doing everything they can to mitigate, to reduce the spread,” Pritzker said Friday, referencing the state’s rising coronavirus case numbers. 

The new fine will not be directed at individuals, but can apply to businesses, schools and nonprofits, the governor said. 

There will be three stages of enforcement under the new rule: Local leaders will first send a warning letter to businesses or organizations in violation. Next they may be ordered to have patrons leave “as needed to comply with public health guidance”. If businesses or schools are still not following orders, they can be charged and issued the fine. 

Pritzker argued that the new process offers local governments more than the one previous option for enforcement: pulling business liquor licenses. Pritzker said a fine would be a less drastic option. 

“This is one way for us to make sure that businesses that have been scofflaws on this subject know that there is a real penalty at the end of the line here,” he said. 

Other states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, already have public mask mandates that include fines. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has not issued a statewide mask requirement, though some local governments, including St. Louis and St. Louis County, have their own that do not include fines.  

Pritzker proposed a similar rule this spring but withdrew it in May after members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules said they would oppose the measure in session because, among other reasons, it included jail time as a possible punishment for violators.

The new rule differs in that is focuses on warnings before a fine and jail time is no longer an option. 

Pritzker on Friday also signed into law legistlation passed by the General Assembly in May that provides more protections to workers during hte pandemic. 

The measure enhances paid disability leave by 60 days for police, firefighters and paramedics for recovery period affected by COVID-19. 

The law also raises the charge for an attack on a retail worker who is enforcing public health orders from misdemeanor battery to felony aggravated battery. 

The law goes into effect immediatly. 

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