Pritzker Responds To Weekend Gatherings, New Contact Tracing Tech

May 5, 2020
Originally published on May 4, 2020 9:56 pm

Governor J.B. Pritzker reiterated during a press briefing Monday that law enforcement can arrest anyone who is defying Illinois’ stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, two big tech companies are looking to develop contact tracing apps, but for now, the governor has nixed the idea for Illinois.

Pritzker joined other public officials in condemning a number of weekend parties in Chicago that were broken up by local police. While Pritzker has shied away from directly ordering police action, he says arrests remain an option for anyone who does not follow public health directives.

“If people are being persistently defiant, I do think that local law enforcement should step in. But it’s up to the mayor and it’s up to the local law enforcement to make those decisions,” the governor said.

A number of Illinois counties have said they will not be enforcing the latest stay-at-home order, while East Peoria has moved to open some businesses, including bars, later this month.

But Illinois insurers have warned they may deny those groups coverage, arguing opening during a pandemic and against the advice of public officials could constitute intentional liability. Illinois’ trial lawyer group has also threatened liability lawsuits.

“I want to remind everybody that it’s a mistake,” Pritzker said, referring to those who have gathered together in recent days.

“Right now, the only way we can defeat this virus is by obeying social distancing, obeying the orders that have been put in place.”

Elsewhere in the country, Apple and Google are ramping up efforts to develop contact tracing apps to help states fight COVID-19.

The companies have partnered to come up with a way to use Bluetooth technology to let mobile phone users know if they’ve been near someone who has COVID-19. Such an app would also allow public health officials to contact that person.

While the tech is still in development, the companies argue it could bolster contact tracing efforts. But during Monday’s press briefing, Governor J.B. Pritzker said he is not willing to sign Illinois up just yet, over concerns about user privacy.

“It’s not something that we’re currently looking as part of the program that we’re building for contact tracing, but I’ll want to see more as the technology is presented and developed,” the governor explained.

Illinois currently has some of the strongest data privacy laws in the country, and it’s unclear if Apple or Google’s technology would run afoul of those.

Meanwhile, Pritzker said the state will be accepting applications soon for traditional contact tracers, who will map the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois and identify potential lines of transmission. In past days, the Governor’s office has said the contact tracing program may train and employ hundreds to as many as thousands of public health workers.

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