The Illinois Shelter-in-Place Mandate: A Quick Q&A

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state from March 21 through April 7. The order mandates the closure of businesses that don’t provide “essential” products or services. What does this mean for your practice?

Empty courtyard and stairwell.

What businesses are allowed to stay open?

Per Governor Pritzker’s executive order, healthcare and public health operations may continue to stay open. This includes hospitals, clinics, dental offices, and pharmacies. What is considered “healthcare” should be interpreted broadly to avoid any impacts or barriers to Illinoisans’ healthcare during this shelter in place order?

Simultaneously, workplaces should take care to effectuate work-from-home policies to the greatest degree possible. (See the blog “COVID-19 FAQs for Healthcare Employers”)

Are healthcare providers prohibited from booking non-urgent in-person visits?

No. The Governor did not suggest that non-urgent healthcare visits are affected. Practices should communicate with their patients about whether the practice plans to close, waive cancellation fees, or modify its policies to comply with CDC social distancing guidance. For those healthcare professionals who can do so, telemedicine or in-home patient visits may be a safer option. 

Can small, independent pharmacies stay open?

Yes. Pharmacies fall under the category of “stores that sell groceries and medicine,” so they are specifically exempted from the Governor’s order. Pharmacies that sell medication, including medication that doesn’t require a prescription, are considered essential businesses and may continue operation. 

What about patient abandonment?

Healthcare practitioners are aware of their responsibilities to avoid abandoning their patients, but this is a unique situation. Any office closures should be clearly communicated to your patients, as should the implication of that closure (i.e., anticipated re-opening date, options for telehealth, prescription refills ordered). 

Your reason for temporarily discontinuing patient care is entirely legitimate—there is a public health crisis that has evolved into a national state of emergency—and you are not “abandoning” your patients. To ensure they don’t feel abandoned during this time, consider implementing alternative forms of care like telehealth until your clinic can resume normal operations. 

You can read the full executive order here.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic and evolving public health emergency. The laws and situation are fluid, and this article may not reflect the most current situation.

This blog is made for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and the reader and should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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