Pritzker: Governors Decide When Coast Is Clear, Not Trump

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question after announcing a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago.
Photo credit AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday said he'll determine when to lift or modify his "stay at home" order, in response to assertions from President Trump that the states will take their cues from the White House.

Trump, eager to restart the U.S. economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier in the day said he has the ultimate authority to decide when to ease off of social-distancing practices.

Pritzker said he envisons the Trump Administration offering "advice," with individual governors determining how to lift their respective state orders.

"It’s up to the governors to make decisions about the executive orders that we've put in place," Pritzker said at his daily media briefing on the novel coronavirus.

He would not say whether his stay-at-home order would be extended from April 30, the current end date, but said any return to normalcy could come in phases rather than all at once. Earlier Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she thinks it's likely people will need to continue staying home beyond April 30. 

Pritzker said data will determine whether the stay-at-home mandate is extended and also whether students go back to physical classrooms before the end of the academic year.

"Things have to evolve. Every day I come in, I wait for the numbers," he said.

Illinois state health officials on Monday reported 1,173 new cases of coronavirus, taking the state's total to 22,025 cases in 87 counties. Seventy-four more people died of COVID-19 complications, taking the state's death toll to 794 lives lost during the pandemic. Even with such grim numbers, officials say the "curve" of new cases could be bending.

Also Monday, Pritzker addressed criticisms that the state’s unemployment-benefits system has been impossible to access for many newly jobless residents. 

The governor agreed the current system has been swamped by a record number of claims that pale in comparison to the great recession of 2008. He said his administration has made some improvements in recent days to process claims faster.

“So many families are hurting on a scale that we’ve never seen in our lifetime,” Pritzker said.