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Monday, November 29, 2021

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More local officials push back against latest Pritzker closure orders

By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – More county and municipal leaders are saying they won’t enforce Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest round of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Nearly all of the state’s population is now under the state’s ban on indoor dining and capacity limits. Compared to closure orders in the spring, many county officials, sheriffs, and other local leaders have announced the latest emergency orders were not theirs to enforce. 

“Let me be clear; local officials do not have the power or responsibility to enforce an executive order issued pursuant to the [Illinois Emergency Management Agency] Act,” Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said in a video the city posted to YouTube. “The governor continues to move the goal posts.”

Pekau said the closure orders have become less about safety and “more about control and power, not science and data.”

Morton Grove Village President Daniel P. DiMaria shared a point also stated by Pekau in that they fear legal retribution for enforcing Pritzker’s orders. 

“I will continue to urge all Morton Grove residents and businesses to practice common sense solutions to slow the spread of the pandemic, but I cannot in good conscience order the Morton Grove Police Department to enforce your Order,” he said. “We have been advised that the village could be sued if we try to enforce this order.” 

McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks, one of Pritzker’s oldest political allies in the state, sent a letter to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike warning that his county’s COVID-19 metrics were being overstated, needlessly risking the livelihoods of small business owners there.  

“According to the McHenry County Economic Development Corp., the county has already lost about 26% of its small businesses this year, and many others barely survived the previous lockdown,” Franks said. “Some of them, I am sorry to say, will not make it through the winter.” 

Many restaurants across the state have announced they would continue to offer indoor dining, in defiance of Pritzker’s latest orders. 

The Illinois State Police, at Pritzker’s orders, say they are legally enabled and willing to enforce the rules. 

“In desiring to protect the public and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Illinois Department of Public Health requested assistance from the Illinois State Police in our role of helping to enforce IDPH emergency rules,” ISP Sgt. Joey Watson said. “As outlined in the administrative rule, enforcement is an incremental process starting with a notice of non-compliance. If businesses continue to not comply, as has been the case in some instances in Region 4, 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.”

In May, Pritzker warned county sheriffs that the state could withhold their federal funding if they refused to enforce his edicts. Many sheriffs were already upset with Pritzker’s orders to suspend prisoner transfers to state facilities, putting their county jails at risk of outbreaks and increased violence. 

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