Illinois Gov. Bans Church Gatherings Of More Than 50 People Until There’s A Vaccine

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Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has extended coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders, suggesting it could take several months or a year before his state returns to normalcy.

“Until we have a vaccine or effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” Pritzker said during a daily news briefing, the Southern Illinoisan reports. “That means we have to learn how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished.”

The Chicago Tribune reports Pritzker is confident his plan is the best option available to keep the state afloat as the coronavirus and subsequent closures have crippled the economy. Tens of millions of Americans are out of work but the governor is cautious about re-opening the state too soon.

“I’m not the one holding the economy back from stage five; the COVID-19 virus is,” Pritzker said. “That’s the thing that’s been causing the very high infection rates, the hospitalizations, and the deaths.”

“We are listening to the scientists, the epidemiologists and the doctors about what’s best for the people who live in our state,” he added per the Chicago Tribune.

Causing some controversy, however, was Pritzker’s decision to bar churches with more than 50 people from meeting until after a cure or vaccine has been developed.

From the Washington Examiner:

Pritzker announced a five-phase plan to reopen Illinois that gives guidance to schools, businesses, churches, and other religious centers about when they will be allowed to reopen. In phase three, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. In phase four, gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed. Gatherings of more than 50 people will not be allowed until phase five.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Pritzker confirmed that churches will be held to the same standards and will not be allowed to hold in-person services of more than 50 people until phase five, even if it takes more than a year to get to that position.

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“Gov. Pritzker has said that he will leave it up to local law enforcement and local prosecutors to enforce the order at their discretion,” an ABC News affiliate reports.

The governor is facing fierce pushback from Republican lawmakers in the state.

The Chicago Tribune reports House GOP leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said simply, “This plan does not work.”

“This plan presumes that the governor shall rule the state for the upcoming months — and possibly much longer — if the vaccination is not available,” he continued. “I took an oath of office to faithfully discharge my duties in the coequal branch of government called the legislature. I did not abdicate nor relinquish my elected responsibilities to the executive branch.”

Despite the backlash, Pritzker is remaining steadfast.

“I don’t want to be in the position that I’ve been in, which is to put in emergency orders,” the governor said. “But I’ll say that we’re going to work through this together.”

“I’ll work with the legislature in any way that they’d like to work together,” he added.

The Southern Illinoisan adds:

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,122 new cases of COVID-19 and 176 additional virus-related deaths over the previous 24 hours. That represented a sharp increase in daily deaths compared to Monday when only 46 deaths were announced. There were 13,139 tests results reported during that span.

That brings the statewide total for Illinois to 65,962 confirmed cases and 2,838 virus-related deaths since the pandemic first appeared in Illinois. The disease has now been reported in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.