Illinois National Guard to help with medical intake while local governments seek compliance on closure orders

(The Center Square) — The Illinois National Guard has been activated to help in the state’s response to COVID-19.

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a new executive order impacting restaurants and bars and other places with gatherings of 50 or more people such as bowling alleys, fitness centers, and theaters.

Illinois’ local governments will be first to enforce the governor’s executive orders.

State health officials have confirmed 105 cases of the novel coronavirus that has since been declared a pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration last week that activated the National Guard.

On Monday in Springfield at the State Emergency Operations Center, the governor said some in the National Guard members have medical backgrounds and can help expand triage if needed.

“The National Guard can help with some of that, either putting up tents or being part of the provision of equipment,” Pritzker said.

Such tents, or temporary shelters, would help with patient intake to prevent medical facilities from being overburdened.

Several law enforcement officials expect the National Guard to be used to enforce court-ordered isolation of certain individuals if those numbers were to increase beyond what local law enforcement agencies were able to handle.

Pritzker said he wants communities to manage themselves.

“There are few people who want to resist and want to talk about resistance against it, but I think, at this point, the public is kind of reigning in those outliers,” Pritzker said.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 105 positive cases throughout the state. More than 1,000 negative tests conducted. No fatalities have been reported in Illinois.

The governor’s Executive Order 2020-07, issued Monday, states private establishments are not permitted to allow on-site food or drink consumption “including restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and food halls.”

“Such businesses are permitted and encouraged to serve food and beverages so they may be consumed off-premises … through means such as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through, and curbside pick-up,” the order said.

Hotels may continue to provide room service and catering services may continue, according to the order.

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said he expected municipalities to uphold the governor’s executive order of shutting down bars and restaurants.

“We are seeking compliance,” Cole said. “We are not seeking enforcement, but we will be there to support the governor entirely as we get through this process.”

As to whether other businesses such as gas stations or pharmacies would be ordered to temporarily close, Pritzker said that was unlikely.

“I cannot anticipate, I do not anticipate that. We’ll be doing anything that will prevent people from getting into their own car if they absolutely need to,” Pritzker said. “I would suggest that people stay home, but they may need to go to a grocer, or they may need to go to a doctor perhaps, so we’re not going to prevent any of that.”

The governor said he couldn’t predict what future steps might become necessary to “flatten the curve” of new coronavirus cases.

The governor’s order prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people, which would include “venues such as fitness centers/health clubs, bowling alleys, private clubs, and theaters.” The order explicitly said it does not include “venues that provide essential goods or services such as grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, banks/credit unions, and shelters.”

The order also encouraged public bodies to postpone public business where possible and use video, audio or telephonic communications for meetings.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said solutions weren’t going to come from the federal government, it’s going to come from a community level.

The federal government put out guidelines that said people should obey state and local guidelines.

Adams said the next several weeks would be difficult, but things would get better with help from everyone in the country.

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