A downstate Illinois judge on Monday ruled against Gov. JB Pritzker’s extension of his stay-at-home order, but it’s unclear how far reaching the decision will be — or for how long.
Illinois State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, claimed in a filing before a Clay County judge that he is being “irreparably harmed each day he is subjected to” Pritzker’s executive orders, claiming the governor doesn’t have the authority to continue a disaster proclamation.
Pritzker called Bailey’s legal challenge an insult to the Illinoisans who have died of COVID-19.
“People are in danger as a result of this ruling,” a visibly frustrated Pritzker said during his daily televised briefing in response to the ruling.
“It’s insulting, it’s dangerous, and people’s safety and health has now been put at risk. There may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done now,” Pritzker said.
The governor vowed a quick appeal.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Kwame Raoul said “We are reviewing the order and considering our options for appeal in consultation with the governor’s office.”
In the interim, Pritzker pleaded with residents and local government leaders to continue to follow the stay-at-home order, which he reiterated comes from the advice and guidance of scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Last week, Pritzker said he plans to extend the order through the month of May.
Bailey is a freshman state legislator who sponsored a resolution calling on Congress to force Chicago to become its own state, in effect separating the city from the rest of Illinois. Seven House Republicans support the non-binding measure, but it’s never received a formal hearing in the House.
He’s a resident of Clay County, about 90 miles due east of St. Louis, Missouri, a county which has had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, according to the Dept. of Public Health.
“Our governor has acted as if he knows best, but he does not know what’s best for all 12 million residents in our state,” Bailey said in a written statement.
In a rare statement publicly rebuking a member of the House of Representatives, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan called Bailey’s lawsuit “extremely reckless at a time we can least afford it.”
Madigan continued by stating Pritzker’s actions have been “guided by what is right — not what is easy, comfortable or expedient. Clearly, we cannot say the same for all the leaders of our state.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon also encouraged residents of the state to continue following the governor’s stay-at-home order.
The judge’s ruling comes as the state approaches 2,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Illinois public health officials announced another 1,980 confirmed cases, including 50 deaths. The Illinois Deptartment of Public Health attributes 1,983 deaths to the novel coronavirus.
In other news out of Pritzker’s daily briefing:
Another Trump tweet: On Monday, President Trump continued picking on Illinois for its long-standing financial troubles, questioning why states like Illinois should receive a “bailout” from Congress as lawmakers consider another stimulus bill to help states and local governments fill budget holes the pandemic has created. In response, Pritzker said Vice President Mike Pence assured governors over the weekend that Trump in fact does support congressional action to help local governments. “Honestly, it’s Sen. (Mitch) McConnell that is an obstacle here,” Pritzker said, referring to the GOP Senate Majority Leader who comes from neighboring Kentucky. Pritzker also pointed out that Kentucky gets more funding from the federal government than it puts in, unlike Illinois.
Has Illinois reached its peak?: Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Deptartment of Public Health, offered no predictions, but said that data around positive COVID-19 rates is rising so slowly now that it suggests the state is coming up on its peak. The issue, she said, is whether the numbers start decreasing or whether they plateau for an extended period of time. “We don’t know when we’re off the peak and heading down until we are,” she said.
Dentists can work, but only on emergency basis: Pritzker also clarified in his briefing that dentists are not prevented from working during the state’s stay-at-home order, which has come up for debate in recent days. But Pritzker said that the work should be limited to emergency procedures, deemed necessary for patients’ health.
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.