Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a shelter-in-place Executive Order on March 20, 2020, the latest in a series of restrictive statewide actions that he has implemented in the effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order follows the imposition of statewide restrictions on the size of public gatherings, a suspension for bars and restaurants offering dine-in service, and school closures. It currently extends through April 7, 2020.
The Illinois construction industry, which has experienced more than a decade of prosperity and boom in the industry, particularly in Chicago, had been bracing for the announcement. The fear was that a prolonged construction shutdown could impact the local economy and be a harbinger of a broader, long-term recession nationally.
But the Executive Order exempts construction projects, which is defined very broadly, allowing for a sigh of relief among contractors and owners/developers.
Specifically, the Executive Order allows ongoing construction activities in furtherance of “Essential Infrastructure,” which includes “construction (including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term care facilities, public works construction, and housing construction).” The Executive Order further explains that “Essential Infrastructure shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure, broadly defined.”
Notwithstanding the foregoing, some within the industry are suspending their activities. And, while construction sites are permitted to remain open for the time being, there are no guarantees for the future. If the prevailing science opinion changes or if it appears that construction sites are no longer safe, then they could be included in a shutdown. Accordingly, the construction industry itself will need to continue implementing proactive safety measures and remaining vigilant. Ultimately, this remains a fluid issue.