As with many other places across the country, Illinois is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases and as a result, has enacted a new round of restrictions. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,601 new cases on November 17, bringing the total number of cases in Illinois to 597,849 (as of the 17th). The preliminary test positivity rate from the past seven days is now at 14.2%.
In response, Governor Pritzker announced a series of mitigation measures which supersede the requirements of the state’s Restore Illinois Phase 4 program, and apply to “any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entity, regardless of the nature of the service, the function it performs, or its corporate or entity structure.” The mitigation measures include:
- Retail – Operate stores at a maximum of 25% capacity (down from 50% capacity), with the notable exception that grocery stores and pharmacies will still be allowed to operate at 50% capacity;
- Bars and Restaurants – No indoor service at all, and the establishments must close at 11:00 pm;
- Indoor Recreation – Casinos, movie theaters, and museums are closed;
- Offices – Teleworking is encouraged, if possible; and
- Manufacturing – There are a number of operational requirements including that non-manufacturing/non-production staff must work remotely, additional COVID training is required even if training has already occurred, and facilities should enact additional distancing and disinfection procedures.
The restrictions go into effect on Friday, November 20, 2020, and will continue for at least a two-week period “to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigation should remain in place.”
Regions can move back to Tier 2 mitigation measures if they demonstrate “less than 12 percent test positivity rate for three consecutive days AND greater than 20 percent available intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital bed availability AND declining COVID hospitalizations in 7 out of the last 10 days.”
What Should Illinois Businesses Do?
The first step is to identify the specific restrictions and operational requirements that apply to your specific industry, and immediately limit or modify operations to ensure compliance. Consider reexamining existing COVID-19 policies and plans to ensure that they are adequately protective, and line up with current regulatory guidance from Illinois, and other sources (e.g., the new CDC definition of close contacts, discussed in more detail here). Increased case counts and heightened restrictions may also lead to expanded enforcement efforts, and a heightened litigation risk, so businesses should take the time to make sure that their procedures and policies are adequately protective.
In addition, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provides resources detailing how businesses should operate during this pandemic, so to the extent that any businesses are revising their operations in response to these restrictions, this information may be helpful.
These restrictions in Illinois have immediate repercussions for businesses in the impacted industries, and is a signal that similar restrictions may be forthcoming in other areas of the Midwest that experience similar increases in case counts.