A new Illinois law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Friday has made it a felony to assault retail workers who are enforcing the use of face masks and other public health guidance.
Illinois Senate Bill 471 targets anyone “assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance, such as requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Offenders can be charged with aggravated battery, which is generally categorized as a Class 3 felony in the state and can result in prison sentences of two to five years as well as fines of up to $25,000.
The law, effective immediately, also increases paid disability leave for emergency workers, firefighters and law enforcement affected by COVID-19.
“This legislation allows front line workers that have been impacted by COVID-19 to focus on recovering while sending a clear message to all our essential workers that we are behind them and will do all we can to protect their safety and well-being,” state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D) said in the governor’s statement.
The law’s additional provisions state that businesses refusing to comply with Illinois’ mask mandates can face fines from $75 to $2,500. Pritzker defended this decision on Sunday, calling it a “modest level of enforcement” and pointing out that businesses would receive warnings first, and fines only after multiple infractions.
Illinois currently requires “everyone over the age of two who can medically tolerate a face covering over their nose and mouth” to wear one in public when they’re unable to social distance.
There have been multiple violent acts over mask usage in multiple states since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. On July 31, a Pennsylvania man fired on local officers with an AK-47 after refusing to wear a mask, and on Saturday, a Washington man was arrested for allegedly breaking the jaw of a 72-year-old veteran during an argument over face masks.
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