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Businesses Seek Guidance On Pritzker’s Emergency Mask Order

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An attorney says businesses should be firm with customers and avoid political debates when enforcing Gov. JB Pritzker's new mask rule.

Businesses that violate Gov. JB Pritzker’s new mask order could face more than just fines for not complying during the coronavirus pandemic. They could lose customers.

Champaign business attorney Lorna Geiler told McLean County business owners during a virtual discussion on Monday the order also allows law enforcement to order people out of a store if the business doesn’t take corrective action following a warning.

Geiler said that may seem unlikely, but during the pandemic, you shouldn’t rule it out.

“Have there been a lot of incidents where you would say, ‘I never would have thought anybody would do that, I never would have thought the government would have done that?” Geiler asked. “There have been lots of those for me.”

Misdemeanor fines of between $700 and $2,500 would come with the third offense.

She said enforcing the rules may require being firm with customers and avoiding political discussions and instead focus on it as a good business practice.

“When it becomes political, when it becomes right and wrong, it becomes controversial, it becomes a hot-button issue,” said Geiler, adding businesses can ban anyone from their stores for not wearing a mask as long as they offer a reasonable accommodation.

“If it’s a customer who wants to go down the aisles without a mask on, we can say, ‘No, you simply can’t do that. Here’s the accommodation we can offer you. Give us your (shopping) list,'” Geiler said.

The McLean County Chamber of Commerce objects to Pritzker’s emergency order. Chamber President and CEO Charlie Moore said business owners are the wrong target.

“We’ve got a lot of businesses that do require face-masking, but it puts the onus and the burden and the penalty on the business if someone doesn’t comply. That’s where we take issue,” Moore said.

He said the chamber will continue to research the ordinance and seek a legal opinion about its enforceability, adding he’s not sure who should be penalized for that and who should police mask compliance. He said the chamber has done a lot to educate area residents and encourage good safety choices.

A state legislative rules committee still has sign off on Pritzker’s order.

Geiler, who expects that will happen, said enforcement of the order could vary from county to county, but it seems to give broad enforcement powers to local law enforcement and health departments.

Health officials have repeatedly said that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Eric Stock is a reporter with WGLT in Normal. Charlie Schlenker is the News Director at WGLT in Normal.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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