On March 20, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order directing all Illinois residents to “stay at home.”  The order goes into effect on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 5 p.m. (CT), and lasts through April 7, 2020.  Illinois now joins the ranks of California and New York, which have issued similar “stay at home” orders.

Under the order, all “non-essential” businesses must stop operating except with respect to minimum basic operations or operations consisting of individuals working from home.  “Minimum basic operations” consist of the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.  To the extent employees must still work, businesses must ensure they comply with social distancing requirements:

  • Designate six-foot distances with signage, tape, or by other means, to ensure employees and customers waiting in line maintain appropriate distances from one another;
  • Make hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  • Implement separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  • Post online whether a facility is open, and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

Additionally, all Illinois residents are ordered to stay home, but are still able to leave their homes for essential activities or essential governmental functions, or to operate essential business and operations. Essential activities include those performed for health and safety, necessary supplies and services, outdoor activity, certain types of work, and to care for others.  When excepted from the “stay at home” directive, individuals are to maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person with whom they come in contact to the greatest extent possible.

All travel is prohibited, except if it is related to essential activities or functions. Travel also is allowed to care for elderly persons, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons. Residents can return to their in-state residences and non-residents can leave the state. Travel required by law enforcement or court order is allowed, as is travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, meals or related services.

All public and private gatherings are prohibited, except as permitted by the order. The order also states that pursuant to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any gathering of more than 10 people is prohibited unless exempted by the order.

“Essential business and operations,” which are permitted to continue to operate, include:

  • Health care and Public Health Operations
  • Human services operations
  • Essential governmental functions
  • Essential infrastructure
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
  • Media
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
  • Financial institutions
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades (such as building and construction, and other maintenance trades)
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services
  • Educational institutions (however, affected schools are still ordered closed through April 7, 2020)
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises
  • Businesses that sell supplies to work from home
  • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other essential businesses and operations with supplies necessary to operate
  • Transportation
  • Home-based care and services
  • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Professional services
  • Day care centers for employees exempted by the executive order
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain companies providing essential products and services to essential businesses and operations
  • Critical labor union functions
  • Hotels and motels
  • Funeral services

These essential businesses and operations are described further in the governor’s executive order, available here.

Employers should review the executive order with the assistance of an attorney to determine if their operations are considered “essential.”  And those businesses deemed “non-essential” should consult their attorneys as soon as possible to determine the best course of action for them and their employees, and to determine what is required to maintain minimum basic operations.