ROCHELLE — In an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday afternoon that all state residents will be subject to a stay-at-home order effective Saturday, March 21 at 5 p.m.
The order will remain in effect until the end of Tuesday, April 7, and school re-openings across the state have been postponed until Wednesday, April 8.
“As this epidemic has progressed, we’ve had to make some hard decisions,” Pritzker said. “To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order in the state of Illinois… Left unchecked, cases will rise rapidly in the state of Illinois, and our hospital systems will be overwhelmed. Protective equipment will become scarce, and we will not have enough healthcare workers, hospital beds or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients. The only strategy available to us…. Is to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in the most robust manner possible.”
Pritzker said during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing that the stay-at-home order will limit residents to essential travel only, which includes trips to grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and medical facilities. Running, hiking and walking outdoors will remain allowed under the order, and both public transportation facilities and airports will remain open. However, Pritzker said that all non-essential businesses must stop operating while the order is in place.
“I don’t come to this decision easily,” Pritzker said. “I fully recognize that in some cases, I’m choosing between saving people’s lives and saving people’s livelihoods. But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have your life. Of all the obligations that weigh on me as governor, this is the greatest. If there are actions I can take to save lives in the midst of this pandemic, no matter how difficult, then I have an obligation to take these actions.”
Following the governor’s announcement, Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows and City Manager Jeff Feigenschuh also released a statement via the city’s Facebook page.
“For Rochelle residents, the stay-at-home order means this: Your essential services like grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, police, fire, and medical services will continue to be available. You can still pick up lunch or dinner at your favorite local restaurant or enjoy a walk outdoors,” Mayor Bearrows said. “We are so grateful for the men and women in Rochelle who are continuing to put themselves on the front lines. If you have already been practicing social distance, this is not new.”
The mayor continued by urging residents not to panic during this time.
“This is not the time to panic. This is the time we pull together to support one another,” he said. “I will again encourage you to seek accurate information from sources like the City of Rochelle, Rochelle Community Hospital, Ogle County Health Department, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.”
City Manager Fiegenschuh reiterated that city staff is taking all necessary precautions and will continue to serve the residents of Rochelle during this time.
“Our operations are solid and stable and we are taking several precautions to keep our team healthy and ready to serve you. The health and safety of our residents and our staff is our number one priority right now,” he said. “First off, our first responders have been provided with sanitation and protective equipment. We have taken measures like staggering shifts and dividing crews to maintain our own social distance in the departments that continue to serve you. Our IT team has been working overtime to enhance our internal communications and ready our teams to be fully operational, even from the safety of their homes.”
Feigenschuh, who has been the city manager in Rochelle for more than two years, also commented on the community’s ability to come together during times of tumult.
“This organization and this community functions as a family. In my two and half years in Rochelle, I’ve seen this community come together for people who are sick, people who are homeless and people in need of food. I have no doubt that Rochelle is going to come together stronger than ever before,” he said.
The city will continue to update its website and Facebook page with any necessary changes to city services. The governor’s order is also available to read in its entirety at https://www.cityofrochelle.net/news/city-news/governor-pritzker-issues-stay-at-home-order.html.
“The governor amended the Open Meetings Act to allow for members of councils to phone-in to meetings and we will have several that will do that [Monday night],” Fiegenschuh said. “Also, my department heads will not attend the meetings. We need to follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing. We will have the meeting live on Facebook as normal for anyone that would like to view it.”
Fiegenschuh explained that department heads won’t be at Monday’s council meeting as a precaution.
“Department heads won’t be there – we need them to stay healthy. Our top priority is to keep employees safe and healthy and to continue to provide the services residents have come to expect. We have several employees working remotely and we are shuffling staff schedules in order to protect employees. By protecting employees we are also protecting residents. All it takes is one person getting sick…could take away the ability to provide services to customers.”
He added that he and other staff have been working closely with representatives from local union organizations to stay up-to-date on the best work conditions and proper protocols for such employees.
“The IBEW has been great to work with. They have provided useful information on how to keep our union employees safe and working,” he said.
We’ve certainly got the right people in the right positions…I am very proud of everyone, from Jenny and Sue to Dave, Chris, Adam, Eric, Sam, Tim, Michelle, Sarah and Nancy… They have all been doing a great job and everyone has stepped up…we’re all rowing our oars in the same direction… We’re a family, I have a great staff and the City of Rochelle is blessed to have them,” Fiegenschuh said.