On Friday, the mayor of an Illinois city announced that he had directed the police department to "more strictly enforce" the statewide stay-at-home order, which was put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus. Early Sunday, his wife was discovered out at a city bar.
"I have directed the police department to use their discretion in issuing citations or making arrests for those refusing to follow the state-issued stay at home mandate," said Alton, Illinois Mayor Brant Walker during a coronavirus update posted Friday on Facebook.
Less than 48 hours later, on Sunday at approximately 1 a.m., officers located "several individuals" at a local bar called Hiram's Tavern, according to a press release from the Alton Police Department. It detailed the individuals, who were not explicitly named, were "clearly disregarding the executive order and public pleas for compliance."
Walker said in a Facebook post Monday that he was told by the city's police chief that officers were "investigating and stopping a social gathering in downtown Alton" at around 1 a.m. Sunday — and that his wife was apparently there.
"I was also made aware that my wife was in attendance at this prohibited social gathering," he explained in the statement. He added that he told the police chief to give her no "special treatment" and "treat her as he would any citizen" violating the order.
"My wife is an adult capable of making her own decisions, and in this instance she exhibited a stunning lack of judgement," he said. "She now faces the same consequences for her ill-advised decision as the other individuals who chose to violate the "Stay At Home" order during this incident."
Police issued a criminal complaint for "reckless conduct," which is classified as a Class A misdemeanor charge, to all who were found gathering at the bar, according to the release. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or a sentence of less than one year in Illinois jail. Those who received a complaint will be summoned to court "at a later date," according to the release.
The charges were the first issued for violating the social gathering restrictions.
"If members of our community will not protect each other, and will be so brazen as to gather in public places, we will be forced to take action like we did this weekend without hesitation," said Alton police Chief Jason Simmons in the release.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker put in place a statewide stay-at-home order March 21 in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus. Per the order, all public and private gatherings, of any number of people, outside one's household are prohibited.
Citizens are permitted to leave the home only to perform "essential activities," such as obtaining groceries, seeking emergency services and walking outside. First responders, law enforcement, health care workers and otherare exempt from the order.
The numbers of coronavirus cases in Illinois continue to rise, with over 13,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, resulting in 380 deaths, according to the state's coronavirus website. The U.S. continues to be the global epicenter of the disease, with more than 396,000 cumulative cases of coronavirus and over 12,700 deaths reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.