Governor J.B. Pritzker has ordered the closure of all Illinois Public schools until the end of the month to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The governor announced 14 new cases in the Chicagoland area today, bringing the total cases in the state to 46.
The announcement comes after Pritzker ordered the cancellation of public events with more than 1000 people yesterday. Today, the Springfield diocese ordered the closure of all of its schools under its jurisdiction due to concerns of the spread of the virus through next week. Pritzker said the school closures will begin on Tuesday so that teachers can prepare lesson plans through the weekend so all the students have the same opportunity to learn during the forced closure. Pritzker said he was aware that some students don’t have access to Internet at home, making e-learning impossible. He said that the Monday closure was so that lessons and plans could be equally distributed.
Pritzker announced today that coupled with the announcement of President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency and enacting powers of the executive branch of the federal government under the Stratford Act, money will be opened up for states to take proper recourse for public safety. Pritzker said part of that money will be used to distribute two meals a day to children who qualify for free and reduced lunches in the state. ISBE is working with local school districts across the state to develop guidelines on how to best distribute meals across the community in a safe and healthy manner by creating delivery or parent pick up options. Pritzker said that his office has already begun talks to work with the state’s major food banks and food manufacturers to ensure that food gets to students who need it.
Pritzker has asked that the general public to self-quarantine through the St. Patrick’s holiday weekend to help stop the spread of the virus. He also said he is currently working on plans for parents who can and cannot be home with their children during the closure. Pritzker hoped the unemployment benefits as well as safety measure for daycare facilities and childcare costs could be provided for by a piece of legislation at the federal level.
More information is expected to come from the governor’s office in the next 24 hours.