Updated 6:20 p.m., March 20 with comments from business leaders and details about what activities and businesses are excluded from the order Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued new sweeping orders that restrict movement and close vast numbers of businesses statewide, the latest steps he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. It closes all nonessential businesses, including hair salons, retail shops and recreational businesses like bowling alleys. The order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations or other businesses that provide essential services. Transit and roads will not close down, and restaurants will still be able to provide takeout food if they wish.
7:00 p.m., Friday, March 20 A woman in her 60s from St. Louis County is the third person to die in Missouri due to COVID-19 , the illness caused by the new coronavirus. St. Louis County health officials said the patient, who had a number of underlying health conditions, died at Mercy Hospital. While the patient did not have any travel history, officials hesitated to call it a case of community spread, which means the exact way the person contracted the virus is not traceable. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he is constantly reviewing the county’s policies on gatherings, and did not rule out a future stay-at-home order, like the one Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Friday. And a member of the Missouri House of Representatives has tested positive for COVID-19, the chamber’s leadership said in a statement. “We are still working to notify members and staff that might have been in contact with the member and have requested all employees stay out of the Capitol for at least the next 10 days. While we learn more and work closely with DHSS to take every precaution necessary, we keep this member and their family in our thoughts and prayers in their battle to return back to health,” said the statement from Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon), Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold), Assistant Majority Floor Leader J. Eggleston (R - Maysville), and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Tommie Pierson Jr. (D – St. Louis). Sources told St. Louis Public Radio that the individual was last at the Capitol on March 12, and was not part of the committee working on the state budget for fiscal year 2021. The House had been set to pass next year’s spending plan, but then abruptly adjourned Tuesday after completing a supplemental to the current budget that included funding for coronavirus response. Metro Transit, which operates the region’s bus, light rail and paratransit services, has announced that it will suspend fare enforcement on its buses and Call-A-Ride services for 10 days starting tomorrow. It is also implementing rear-door boarding, unless a passenger needs to use the lift or asks the bus to kneel. Fare enforcement will continue on MetroLink. The agency is also going to a modified weekend schedule starting Monday, March 23, until further notice. That will reduce the frequency of many bus routes. Express route service in Missouri is suspended completely. Metro also announced Friday that starting Monday, all employees will be screened for a fever when they arrive at work. Those with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees will be sent home, and not allowed to return until they are fever-free and have a statement from their doctor. Mercy Health is opening three more drive-thru sites to test patients for COVID-19. The three sites will be in Washington, South St. Louis County and Hillsboro. The St. Louis County and Washington sites will open next week. Mercy officials are still determining an opening date for the Hillsboro site. Drive-thru tests allow workers to test patients with minimal exposure to staff and other patients and thus slow the spread of the disease. The first drive-thru testing facility opened last week in Chesterfield and has since collected samples from more than 440 patients. Mercy officials warn patients they will not be tested if they show up at the site without first making an appointment with Mercy using its COVID-19 clinical support telephone number. Doctors will determine if the patient meets criteria for testing, which include symptoms such as a fever of over 100.4 and shortness of breath, and exposure to an infected person or travel to an area with a high number of cases. The St. Louis County Council voted unanimously Friday to allow the council to meet remotely and to allow members of the public to submit written testimony in lieu of speaking publicly at the regular council meetings. Council chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, said the measures are needed to ensure the county council can continue to function during the coronavirus outbreak. Written public testimony will be limited to 400 words and must be submitted at least an hour before council meetings start, said Diann Valenti, the county clerk, during the meeting. The council took its votes during a meeting that was streamed live over the internet and telephone, but which members of the public and media were not allowed to attend in person. It lasted fewer than 10 minutes. The council meets again at 6:30 p.m.on Tuesday. --Rachel Lippmann, Julie O’Donoghue, Sarah Fenterm, Holly Edgell, Jason Rosenbaum 4:45 p.m. Friday, March 20 There are now a total of 585 cases of coronavirus in Illinois. The state Department of Public Health today announced 163 new cases of COVID-19. Three additional counties have reported cases: Adams, Christian and McLean. COVID-19 has been confirmed in 25 Illinois counties.