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Pritzker reinstates indoor mask mandate, requires vaccines for educators, college students

Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to remand statewide mask and order vaccines for teachers on Thursday called everything from a “welcome and thoughtful approach” to authoritarianism more appropriate for a “tyrant,” “dictator” or “king.”

But the Democratic governor had his own take on the move, blaming the state’s resurgence of face coverings on those who didn’t get their due, describing the state’s current plight as an “unvaccinated pandemic.”

“Unfortunately, our current vaccination levels are not sufficient to reduce delta type virulence and increased hospitalization in some areas,” Pritzker said. “Hospital administrators are asking for more help to manage the huge number of incoming patients who, I stress again, are almost exclusively individuals who have chosen not to have the life-saving vaccine.”

Pritzker revealed the two plans at a Thursday morning news conference, saying, “Unfortunately, time is running out because our hospitals are running out of beds.”

Pritzker speaks during a press conference at the Thomson Center to announce a statewide indoor mask mandate and vaccine requirements for teachers in kindergarten and even higher education amid COVID-19 concerns Thursday.
Ashley Razine/The Sun Times Profile

Starting Monday, Illinois will join several other states that have reinstated indoor mask requirements for all 2 and older regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, vaccinations will be required for all preschool through 12th grade teachers, staff, and all higher education staff and students, as well as health care workers “in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities, and the physician,” Pritzker said.

From September 5, those who do not wish to receive their first dose of the vaccine will be required to be tested for the virus at least once a week.

Pritzker offered some bleak facts that led to his decision:

From January to July, 98% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, 96% of coronavirus hospitalizations and 95% of deaths were among the unvaccinated.

Governor JB Pritzker speaks during a press conference at the Thomson Center in August.

Governor JB Pritzker speaks during a press conference at the Thomson Center on Thursday.
Ashley Razine/The Sun Times Profile

As of Wednesday, only 21% of the total number of 31,801 hospital beds were available, and only 17% of the 3,148 ICU beds were open, according to statistics from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

As of Thursday, Pritzker said the state’s seven-day rolling average for availability of intensive care beds is 3% in southern Illinois — an area that also has the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

Pritzker’s announcement sparked mixed reactions.

Dr. Vishnu Chondi, chair of the Chicago Medical Association COVID-19 task force, said he doesn’t think [mask] The mandate will be actionable “because those who will need to remind people to comply do not have the power, authority, or training to get people to listen to them or to defuse the situation.

In a joint statement, Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Teachers’ Federation, and Cathy Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, cited rising case numbers and “more children getting sick now” as reasons for Pritzker State’s support for a vaccine.

Rob Carr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retailers Association, described the governor’s mask mandate as a “calculated approach that ensures shoppers continue to receive needed goods, food, and medicine with minimal disruption.”

People walked out of Mariano's in the Roscoe Village neighborhood last week.

People walked out of Mariano’s in the Roscoe Village neighborhood last week.
Pat Nabong Profile / Sun Times

Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, welcomed the mask and vaccine mandates saying “we cannot let go of the progress that has been made in restoring our nation’s health and economy.”

House Republican Leader Jim Dworkin made his objections clear in a letter to Pritzker.

Dworkin wrote that the two received a call Wednesday night in which the Democratic governor asked Republican Western Springs for suggestions on “how to control this new wave of the epidemic.”

Shortly after the call ended, Durkin received a notification of breaking news regarding the planned mask and vaccine decisions. In his letter, Dworkin told the governor that he “once again, put your plan in place without interference.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018;  Governor JB Pritzker, right, last year.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Governor JB Pritzker, right, last year.
Rich Hein, Pat Nabong / The Sun Times Files

“You are willing to negotiate with your biggest supporters, the public sector unions, about the response to the pandemic, but you will not listen to the General Assembly or the residents of Illinois most affected by your actions,” Dworkin wrote in his letter.

Plus, instead of wasting taxpayer money on lotteries and secret gifts, direct that money to buy KN95 masks for kids in schools that still can’t receive the vaccine. This would take the financial burden off families while providing real and tangible results.”

Pritzker replied with his own message. He did not address Durkin not being told Thursday’s announcement, but said he had “immediately contacted supervisors to inform them that KN95 masks are available upon request through normal distribution channels for personal protective equipment.”

Senator Darren Bailey, Republican of Zegna, called Pritzker a “tyrant” who “continues to issue mandates unilaterally.”

“Unless you are part of a powerful special interest group that can help his campaign, he will continue to try to control your life,” the Republican candidate for governor said in a statement.

Former state senator Paul Schimpf, who is also vying for a chance to oust Pritzker, said the governor had lost “all moral authority to lead the pandemic response by not following the rules he set for others.”

“In the absence of any legislative action,” the Republican said of Waterloo, “these executive decrees are yet another divisive act of a failed governor who believes he has unlimited power.”

Suburban businessman Gary Rabin, left, in March;  State Senator Darren Bailey, Republican-Zegna, center;  Former Senator Paul Schimpf, right.

Suburban businessman Gary Rabin, left, in March; State Senator Darren Bailey, Republican-Zegna, center; Former Senator Paul Schimpf, right.
Anthony Vazquez Profile/Sun Times; Facebook social networking site

Businessman Gary Rabin, the third Republican candidate for governor, said the state will not stop COVID-19 with “authoritarian rules.”

“This is an overreach of the government that is like a dictator, and we as a society must stand up to it vehemently,” Rabin said. “Governor Pritzker, who comes from a fortune similar to royalty, seems to think the way to solve this problem is to play the role of Chief Health Officer and King.”

Don Tracy, the Republican Party leader in Illinois, said that while “the science is clear – the vaccine is safe and effective,” many people “remain deeply skeptical,” and “we don’t think government-imposed vaccine mandates are the best way to overcome that skepticism.” “.

“We hope that everyone, in consultation with their physician, will reach this conclusion and be vaccinated,” Tracy said in a statement. “It’s the best proven way to keep people safe and put the pandemic behind us.”

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