Lawmakers await COVID-19 briefing

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, (center) sits among staff awaiting briefing on COVID-19 Thursday March 5

(The Center Square) – The Illinois legislature has canceled its upcoming session because of concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

“When the state association for emergency doctors cancels its Capitol visit citing public health concerns, it should give us all reason to re-examine our schedules and priorities,” Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said. “Given the recommendations for social distancing as a safeguard to slow the spread of this virus, the Illinois Senate is going to do its part."

Lawmakers were scheduled back the day after the March 17 primary in Illinois.

Harmon announced the scheduled session days for March 18, 19 and 20 were cancelled.

“We will constantly monitor the situation and make future decisions based on best practices and advice from the state’s public health and emergency preparedness professionals,” Harmon said.

The House also canceled session for those days because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus that originated from China in December. It’s unclear if other scheduled session days will be canceled.

“We’ll take it gradually,” House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said.

With next week’s days canceled, the calendar has lawmakers back on March 24 through April 3 before taking two weeks off for spring break.

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.