SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has said the Illinois State Police will be enforcing the new emergency rules in the Rockford region this weekend.
Pritzker’s office said Friday that, while ISP would not be giving out jail time or felonies for non-compliance, they would fine businesses who fail to comply with the restrictions, which go into effect on Saturday.
ISP issued the following statement on Friday: “As outlined in the administrative rule, enforcement is an incremental process starting with a notice of non-compliance. If businesses continue to not comply, state or local law enforcement can issue the business a misdemeanor citation, similar to enforcing indoor smoking laws. Local state’s attorneys determine how to proceed as they would in any other misdemeanor case.”
Winnebago County States Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said the following: “I do not believe that the criminal justice system should be the default mechanism to enforce compliance. It is my goal to work with businesses to use mitigation measures while being able to continue to generate income and remain financially solvent. It is a tenuous situation in trying to achieve this balance. However, I believe that the majority of local businesses will conduct themselves in a manner to ensure the health and safety of their employees and patrons. Consequently, it is my goal to encourage compliance through the use of alternative solutions. I believe this can be accomplished without involving the courts.”
The Governor’s response was to a meeting held at Giovanni’s in Rockford Thursday night by Attorney Tom DeVore, attended by at least 100 local bar and restaurant owners.
DeVore said bars and restaurants are under no legal obligation to heed the governor’s orders and close their indoor services.
The Governor’s new restrictions come after Illinois’ Region 1, which includes Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson, Ogle and DeKalb counties, exceeded the 7-day rolling 8% testing positivity rate threshold set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The new restrictions, would order bars and restaurants to close indoor service, and limit gatherings to 25 people or 25% of room capacity.
At Thursday’s meeting, DeVore said, “Under no set of facts, under any law, under any rule is a felony charge against anyone possible [for disobeying the Governor’s rules]. You’d be surprised how many business owners across the state believe that somebody can just say oh you got to shut down and they really don’t have any choice.”
Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana agreed that the new rules are not enforceable as law.
“I can speak for me and my department,” Sheriff Caruana said. “In this county we’re not doing anything about it.”
Local lawmakers sent a formal letter to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, asking for a delay in mitigation efforts.
“It is clear the mitigation order put in place to take effect October 3rd will cause restaurants and bars to bear the overwhelming brunt of these new restrictive rules,” the letter read. “Yet from the departments’ own data we know that restaurants and bars are not one of the major causes of the spread of COVID-19.
“Before implementing a decision that will lead to thousands of layoffs and permanent business closures, we owe the communities that we represent and the businesses that have worked so hard to comply with these regulations, the opportunity to discuss this plan.”
The letter was signed by Sen. Neil Anderson (R), Sen. Brian Stewart (R), Sen. Dave Syverson (R), Rep. John Cabello (R), Rep. Andrew Chesney (R), Rep. Tom Demmer (R), Rep. Jeff Keicher (R), Rep. Tony McCombie (R), Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R), and Rep. Maurice West (D).
Sen. Syverson, Rep. Cabello, and Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury were at the meeting on Thursday and told attendees that they would not enforce the restrictions.
Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea spoke at a press conference on Friday, saying that his department and the City of Rockford would comply with the Governor’s orders. O’Shea added that police are not involved in the process, which is typically enforced by the City’s Office of Code Enforcement.
The Winnebago County Health Department issued a statement on Friday, saying that “If compliance is not achieved [through a series of notifications to an individual business], then further action may include Class A misdemeanor charge.”