SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all schools in the state to close from March 17 to the end of the month.

“All of these choices have cascading effects for citizens and vulnerable populations when it comes to food access, safety, childcare and social services,” Pritzker said. “We’ve seen what happens in places that didn’t move with urgency. I ask all of you not to hesitate to do the right thing for your family, your friends and your community. One small step at a time, we will get through this together.”

For now, day cares will remain open, he said.

“By taking these actions now, we hope to slow and limit widespread transmission of this virus, which is essential to ensuring our health care system is not overwhelmed as the disease progresses through our state,” said Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “School closures will help slow the progression of the virus and we are asking for everyone’s help in reducing the spread.”

Schools will be able to continue providing meals to those who receive free-and-reduced-price breakfasts and lunches, the Pritzker administration said, as the state board of education was granted a waiver to continue providing meals.

Those students will be able to receive grab-and-go meals each day, and some districts will deliver meals while others will have parents pick them up.