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Lessons for Employers from IDPH, Cook County, and Chicago Stay-At-Home Advisories

Coronavirus Labor & Employment

As the Illinois COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise, the Illinois Department of Public HealthCook Countyand the City of Chicago have asked the public to limit activities outside the home to essential activities as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. Unlike the stay-at-home orders from this Spring, these recommendations are “advisory” in nature, not orders or legal mandates. Under the advisories, most employers are strongly advised to allow employees to work from home whenever feasible. Given the risk that employees exposed to the virus at home or at gatherings outside of work may bring the virus with them when they return to work, employers should also encourage employees to heed the advisories’ guidance to avoid travel and non-essential activity. The issue is more complicated for certain types of employers, including schools, colleges, and universities. One of the stated goals of asking the public to stay at home is to help schools remain open, and the advisories recognize that students and school employees may leave home to work at and attend schools. That, along with the Governor’s executive order specifically recognizing that educational institutions are essential businesses, limit the applicability of the advisories for employers that are schools, colleges, and universities. For more information about the potential impact of these advisories on schools, colleges, and universities, review our education-focused alert here. For other employers, keep reading for a summary of the recommendations in the advisories. 

Specifically, the Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago public health advisories recommend that for the next three weeks (or, under the City’s advisory, for the next 30 days): 


  • For the next three weeks, stay home as much as possible, leaving only for necessary and essential activities, such as school or work that must be performed outside the home, COVID-19 testing, visiting the pharmacy, and buying groceries. 
  • Travel only if necessary, avoiding areas that are experiencing high rates of positivity. 
  • Avoid even small gatherings that mix households. 
  • Employers and employees should work cooperatively to allow employees to work from home, with public health officials asking employers to “make accommodation for this”.  Per both the state and the county, “Our goal is to reduce transmission as we head into the holidays so businesses and schools can remain open.”