Week in Review: COVID-19 & Stay-at-Home Order

Governor Issues Stay at Home Order for All Illinoisans. The global coronavirus pandemic is continuing to affect every aspect of day-to-day life in Illinois. After issuing a disaster declaration last week, Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-06 on March 16 to close K-12 schools throughout Illinois. This order was followed by Executive Order 2020-07 to close the restaurants and bars of Illinois (no dine-in option for restaurants; drive-thru, carryout and delivery still available). In addition, many of Illinois’ colleges and universities, which are not under the control of the Governor, have taken independent but coordinated steps to shut down all classroom activities and move to online instruction.

On Friday, March 20, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-10, which directs Illinoisans throughout the state to stay at home (shelter-in-place) to slow the spread of COVID-19. Starting Saturday, March 21 at 5pm and for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation, which currently extends through April 7, all Illinois residents will be subject to a stay at home order. Schools will remain closed statewide until a tentative reopening date of April 8.

“We are doing all that we can to maintain as much normalcy as possible while taking the steps we must to protect our residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I fully recognize that in some cases I am choosing between saving people’s lives and saving their livelihoods. But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood without a life. This will not last forever, but it’s what we must do to support the people on the front lines of this fight, and the people most vulnerable to its consequences.”

“This is a critical time for our state and our nation, and we must take any and all steps, including the governor’s action today, to reduce the number of those affected by this virus so that we can return to our normal way of life as quickly as possible,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

Under the terms of the Governor’s Stay at Home Order, all persons may leave their homes only for essential activities, essential government functions, or to operate essential businesses and operations, as defined in EO 2020-10. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited unless exempted by this Executive Order.

Leaving the home for essential activities is permitted. For purposes of this Executive Order, individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following essential activities:
  • For health and safety
  • For necessary supplies and services, including groceries and food
  • For outdoor activity
  • For certain types of work: to perform work providing essential products and services at essential businesses or operations
  • To take care of others
Social Distancing Requirements: For purposes of this Executive Order, Social Distancing Requirements include maintaining at last six-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-tough surfaces, and not shaking hands.

IDPH update on COVID-19. On Friday, March 20, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 163 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including the death of a Cook County woman in her 70s. Three additional counties are now reporting cases; Adams, Christian, and McLean counties.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 585 cases in 25 counties in Illinois. Cases have occurred in ages 3 to 99. Cases by county can be found on the IDPH website, as well as a list of local health departments who will have the most up-to-date information.

As the number of COVID-19 cases being reported continues to rise significantly each day, the State of Illinois is working to increase testing capacity by working with Illinois hospitals to implement testing within their facilities.

Additionally, the State is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing sites in the hardest hit areas of the state.
These facilities will focus on senior citizens, first responders, and health care workers.

Hospital capacity is another area we are focusing on by identifying resources and ways to increase our bed capacity in Illinois to treat those who contract the novel coronavirus. The State has been working with other jurisdictions and businesses to re-open recently closed hospitals. The State is currently doing assessments at four hospitals in Illinois to determine the current condition of the facility, medical resources available, staffing levels, and what else is needed to open these facilities in order to provide medical care for individuals with COVID-19.

New Measures to Help Illinoisans Affected by COVID-19. As Illinoisans face increasing challenges as a result of the coronavirus, Governor Pritzker announced a series of new measures to relieve pressure on small businesses, increase safe opportunities for vulnerable populations to purchase essentials and expand health care services for patients and providers.

To help alleviate some of the unprecedented challenges facing bars and restaurants due to COVID-19, Gov. Pritzker has directed the Department of Revenue to defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants — accounting for nearly 80% of all such entities statewide.

Under the directive, eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May made late. The Department of Revenue estimates this will give relief to nearly 80% of bars and restaurants in Illinois.

Penalties and interest will be automatically waived; however, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax return even if they are unable to make a payment. Any taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin available at tax.illinois.gov.

Two days after submitting documentation demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on more than 3,000 businesses across the state, Gov. Pritzker announced Thursday that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov

After convening the largest grocers and food manufacturers in the state with the help of Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Gov. Pritzker announced that a growing coalition of grocery stores statewide will set aside one or more hours of operation for older residents to shop, before stores open to the general public.

Gov. Pritzker announced that his administration is implementing several measures to remove regulatory barriers for health providers and increase opportunity for patients as Illinoisans are urged to stay home as much as possible during this time.

Through emergency rules and an executive order, the Pritzker administration has significantly relaxed rules around telemedicine for both Medicaid and private insurers, allowing more providers to get reimbursed for these services that allow patients more flexibility and safety. For plans regulated by the Department of Insurance, the executive order calls for providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits and prohibits private health insurers from imposing any cost-sharing for in-network providers. For Medicaid, the emergency rules also require providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits.

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has filed an 1135 waiver with the federal government to remove administrative barriers for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Pritzker administration is seeking to increase access to telehealth and the number of health care providers that can screen patients, allow 90-day prescription supplies without prior authorization and early refills, as well as several other items that will increase flexibility and provide additional resources.

The Department of Human Services has also filed a federal waiver to ease eligibility requirements for food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, which cover 1.8 million Illinoisans and 174,000 pregnant women and parents of young children respectively.

Gov. Pritzker assured Illinoisans that essential services will always remain open, including but not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. As new information becomes available, the Pritzker administration will continue to communicate with the public and media in a timely and transparent manner.

State Web Resources for COVID-19. The State of Illinois has launched a new website detailing the State’s evolving response to COVID-19 and resources available to Illinois residents during this challenging time.

In an effort to provide timely and accurate information to the public, Coronavirus.illinois.gov centralizes the breaking updates from state government, prevention and preparation tips, frequently asked questions and resources from public health experts.

News: The latest announcements from the Governor’s Office and state agencies on the evolving response to COVID-19.
  • Prevention: Tips to keep safe and healthy practices at home, in the office, in long term care facilities, in homeless shelters, around local neighborhoods and during day-to-day activities.
  • Preparation: How to take effective actions to plan for a situation where you may get sick, such as implementing family action plans, and what to do if you suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • FAQs: Answers to general questions on COVID-19 and more specific questions related to education and unemployment.
  • Resources: Guidance from experts at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and crucial information for both families and medical providers.
  • About Coronavirus: What is coronavirus? Instructions on what individuals can do to protect themselves and help prevent community spread.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has a statewide COVID-19 hotline and website to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case: call 1-800-889-3931 or visit IDPH.illinois.gov.

The Illinois House Republican Caucus has also launched a COVID-19 Updates webpage where Illinoisans can find helpful information and links to various State and Federal resources. Our COVID-19 webpage is located at ilcovid19info.com.

IDPH Household Preparedness Guidelines. The President and the White House have declared the current pandemic to be a national emergency. IDPH has published guidelines for persons concerned about the challenges inherent in adapting to the new situation. This website link describes the many things that Illinois households can and should do to reduce the risks facing people inside their home, their neighbors, and those around them.

Urgent need for blood, essential health care supplies. The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.

Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. Watch this video on the safety and need for blood donations.

Right now, eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment to give soon. But please postpone your donation for 28 days following travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea, or if you’ve been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

What to know about Coronavirus and our enhanced blood donation safety protocols.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Illinois clinics and hospitals, particularly face masks, is a matter of serious concern. On Thursday, March 19, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHHA) issued an urgent plea for facemasks and other personal protective equipment. The appeal was aimed at other workplaces, facilities and offices, including professional facilities, that may be closed or have entered a period of reduced operations due to the current situation and have gear that can be donated. Examples include construction companies, dentists’ offices, and veterinarians, all of whom use varieties of facemasks – including but not limited to medical masks – as part of their day-to-day work.

Federal government moves tax filing deadline to July 15. The deadline for filing federal income tax returns will be postponed three months, to July 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday.

The decision comes after complaints over the administration’s previous plan to give people who owe the IRS an additional 90 days to pay, without penalties or interest, yet still require them to file returns by April 15.

At President Donald Trump’s direction, Mnuchin tweeted, “We are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

Several states have also pushed back their filing deadlines for state taxes. Illinois will likely push back its filing deadline as well, but that decision had not been announced as of Friday, March 20.

Legislative session postponed indefinitely. Under the schedule set forth for the Illinois General Assembly at the beginning of the spring session, the General Assembly was scheduled to meet during the last two weeks of March. In line with overall national guidelines to not gather in large groups, the Illinois House of Representatives has officially cancelled its session activities for the final full week of March 2020.

Illinois House bills continue to be referred from the House Rules Committee to the standing House committees for consideration and possible action. All committee deadlines have been postponed. There is a variety of electronic options for individuals and groups to track bills and other matters under consideration by Illinois lawmakers. The ILGA Dashboard shows what legislative activities may be taking place

In line with overall public health guidelines, the Illinois State Capitol is closed to the public. The closure is expected to last throughout the duration of the current coronavirus crisis. The closure was announced on Wednesday, March 18.

Massive increase in global unemployment affecting Illinois. The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus has abruptly moved the world economy from conditions of prosperity and full employment to conditions of serious disruption and global recession. More than 64,000 Illinoisans filed unemployment benefit claims with the Illinois Department of Employment Security between Monday and Wednesday as the initial damage caused by the spread of the Coronavirus on the state’s economy emerged.

The new unemployment claims this week are more than 10 times the number of claims from the same three days during the third week of March in 2019, according to data from IDES.

Many Illinoisans are asking questions about how to file for unemployment insurance online. Along with many other state agencies, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has closed its public offices, and strongly recommends that claims be filed online wherever possible. For persons without online access at this time, IDES operates a telephone hotline (312/338-4337), which is staffed from 5:00 am until 7:30 pm on weekdays.

The Illinois unemployment system is responding to the current crisis by putting into place a temporary system for expedited first-time benefits. Under this system, a wide variety of qualifying unemployed workers will can apply immediately for benefits and, if eligible, will get an initial 2-week check to start up their benefit period. In addition, a further rules change will temporarily modify the requirement, in current law, that a laid-off worker must actively search for new employment elsewhere. If a person has been laid off due to a COVID-19 work-related closure, and has standing such that he or she will be called back at the conclusion of the current health crisis, then this person will be able to present his or her work standing as an equivalent to the act of actively searching for new employment. IDES also maintains the Illinois Job Link web portal to help individuals with job searches.

Under current law, Illinois unemployment benefits customarily last for 26 weeks. Under some emergency circumstances, Congress can extend this time frame and allow benefits to be paid for a longer period of time. The federal government can also do other things that affect the Illinois unemployment system. IDES is closely monitoring activities in Washington to maintain our State’s access to its share of overall national relief funds.

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