A look at Pritzker’s powers in emergency or disaster situations

COVID-19 Pandemic
Data pix.

CHICAGO — President Donald Trump, along with governors across the country, have been using powers normally reserved for war-time to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker ordered the closing of Illinois schools and bars and restaurants as the state looks to curb the spread of the virus.

Experts told WGN Investigates said those aren’t the only powers Pritzker has in emergency or disaster situations. His “stay at home” order may sound like a lockdown, but it’s not.

“We don’t have a police force in Illinois that’s going to be able to go out and enforcement some sort of lockdown,” Pritzker’s Chief of Staff Anne Caprara said. “That’s not what we’re looking at.”

As the state’s commander in chief, Pritzker can deploy the National Guard and he has already called up some troops for medical and other assistance missions.

He also has the power to declare other actions such as order an evacuation from a “stricken or threatened area.” And, if the need arises, provide “temporary emergency housing.”

Amid reports of potential price gouging on in demand items like toilet paper and milk, it’s also worth noting state law gives the governor power to “prohibit increases in the prices of goods and services during a disaster.”

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act doesn’t specifically address quarantines. But Illinois Department of Public Health can order a person or persons to be quarantined or isolated, though the order has limitations and can be challenged in court.

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