• Businesses will first be warned, then ordered to reduce some or all patrons, then fined $75 to $2,500
  • The fines apply to businesses, schools and child care centers, not individuals
  • Illinois recorded its highest new case count Thursday since May, 1,953

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday upped the stakes in the face mask war, imposing fines as high as $2,500 on businesses that don’t enforce his mandate for people to wear face coverings in public to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“It's clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks - especially to protect frontline workers, whether they're at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they're responding to 911 calls to save those in distress,” Pritzker said in a press release announcing the fines.

“These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won't take our state backward.”

Illinois had recorded 188,424 coronavirus cases and 7,594 COVID-19 deaths as of Thursday. The highest number of new cases since May was announced Friday, 2,084, a 4.4% positivity rate.

Health experts have warned the U.S. could see 300,000 deaths from the pandemic by the end of the year if more people don’t start adhering to mask requirements. The death toll Friday stood at more than 160,000, with deaths rising at about 1,000 a day.

The emergency rules provide:

  • Business, schools and child care centers that don’t enforce the mask mandate will first receive written notice encouraging them to comply with public health guidance.
  • Those that fail to comply will be ordered to remove some or all of their patrons.
  • Further refusal to comply will result in fines ranging from $75 to $2,500.

The fines apply only to businesses, not individuals.

“This is one way for us to make sure that businesses that have been scofflaws on this subject know that there is a real penalty at the end of the line here,” Pritzker told a news conference.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and local health departments will investigate reported violations.

Pritzker first issued his mask mandate May 1, but enforcement has been an issue. The new rules give local health and police departments more options for enforcing the mandate short of revoking a business license.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will consider Pritzker’s action next week in Springfield.

“I can’t tell you the political breakdown of how people will come down on whether we should wear masks or not, but I am confident that that a majority of people in the state of Illinois, a vast majority, want us to have enforcement mechanisms and want us to make sure that people are wearing face coverings,” Pritzker said.

Cities in California and elsewhere have imposed their own fines, usually against individuals and in the $100 to $250 range. Nine businesses in Milwaukee received warnings recently, but no citations. In Houston, police are issuing citations for $250 to those who don’t wear masks in public.

The possible fine in Irvine, California, is $500.