After Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb declared a public state of emergency March 18, later that day, the village issued a shelter in place order. The order goes into effect March 20. While the order is a serious effort to protect citizens from the coronavirus, it also includes several exemptions for meeting real life needs such as food shopping and health care.
“The nature of the emergency is the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the village and extraordinary measures must be taken to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the village,” Abu-Taleb’s declaration reads.
Within the declaration, the mayor also called on Oak Park Public Health Director Mike Charley to exercise his authority to require residents to shelter in place under Village of Oak Park Resolution 20-120, Illinois state statutes and the Oak Park Village Code.
“It’s important to recognize the gravity of this crisis but I think it’s also important to recognize that this order has broad exceptions and the intention is not to make people panic,” the mayor told Wednesday Journal. “The intention is to make people think hard about following the guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.”
Charley subsequently issued the shelter-in-place order on March 18. The order goes into effect March 20 and extends through April 3. Both Charley’s and the mayor’s actions come on the heels of the announcement, also made March 18, of Oak Park’s first documented positive COVID-19 test result.
“The intent of this order is to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue, to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible,” Charley’s order reads.
The order encourages people experiencing homelessness to seek shelter immediately.
“I think it’s also to point out that, when it comes to enforcement, we are not going to be heavy-handed, but we do expect every citizen to do their part to help us stop the spread of this virus,” the mayor told Wednesday Journal. “This way we can save our lives and the lives of the people we love.”
The order also dictates social distancing requirements should be observed “when people need to leave their places of residence, whether to obtain or perform vital services, or to otherwise facilitate authorized activities necessary for continuity of social and commercial life.”
Such social distancing requirements include maintaining a distance of at least six feet between individuals, frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, covering sneezes and coughs with sleeves or elbows, cleaning high-touch surfaces and not shaking hands.
According to Charley’s order, individuals who fail to reasonably comply with social distancing requirements are in violation of the Illinois Public Health Act, 220 ILCS 2305/2(k), a class A misdemeanor.
However, the mayor reiterated enforcement will not be “heavy-handed.”
Under the shelter-in-place order, people are only allowed to leave their residences for “essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to operate essential businesses.”
Essential activities include visiting healthcare professionals, getting prescriptions and medical supplies, and shopping for groceries and pet supplies.
People are allowed to engage in outdoor activities, providing they comply with social distancing requirements.
Individuals can leave home to work for or obtain services at “healthcare operations” which include “hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, medical cannabis dispensaries and related retail sales or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services.”
Veterinary care and animal health services fall under healthcare operations. Fitness studios and gyms do not.
Essential businesses include first responders, grocery stores, food pantries, convenience stores, food cultivation, sheltering and social services operations, newspapers, television, radio, gas stations and auto repair shops, banks and financial institutions, mailing and shipping services, dry cleaners and laundromats, airlines, taxis and other private transportation services. Educational institutions for the purpose of providing distance learning is also listed under essential businesses.
Plumbers, electricians, pest control and garbage pick-up and other sanitation services are also defined as essential businesses.
The shelter-in-place order can be viewed in its entirety on the village of Oak Park’s website.