Pritzker: Mask mandate announcement coming soon

Gov. JB Pritzker responds to questions about possible easing of the statewide indoor mask...
Gov. JB Pritzker responds to questions about possible easing of the statewide indoor mask mandate during an unrelated press conference Tuesday afternoon.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 4:01 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will announce the state’s plan to ease back the COVID-19 indoor mask mandate soon. His says his main metric to watch is hospitalization data, and it continues to move in the right direction.

There are 2,643 Illinoisans hospitalized for COVID-19 complications. That is far less than the number of people hospitalized during the peak of the omicron variant.

Pritzker is pleased with where the hospitalization numbers are heading. He is considering removing the mask mandate, but the governor also stressed that Illinois got to this point of the pandemic because people were responsible, wore masks and got vaccinated.

Still, Pritzker would not give details about his specific metrics to meet during an unrelated press conference Tuesday afternoon. Many people also want to know if there will be separate guidance for masking in schools once the statewide mask mandate is lifted.

The Gray TV Capitol Bureau asked Pritzker about that possibility, and the governor inferred there is no guarantee that masks will go away for schools any time soon. Pritzker said schools have specific challenges due to thousands of people going in and out of the buildings and then entering the community with the possible spread of COVID-19.

“We have got to be very careful about how we remove those mask mandates,” Pritzker said. “And also, we need to make sure that schools are doing what is responsible - they have the testing available going forward, that they know when they should be thinking about, at the local level, when they should be putting masks back on when there are outbreaks.”

The governor said he is still going through a careful planning process. He emphasized several times to reporters that the announcement about masking changes will come shortly.

Pritzker is also waiting for the Fourth District Appellate Court to respond to his request for an appeal of a recent ruling against his COVID-19 mitigations in some schools. Springfield Judge Raylene Grischow granted a temporary restraining order Friday against 145 school districts enforcing the indoor mask mandate, COVID-19 testing requirements for teachers and staff, and COVID-19 school exclusion protocols.

The judge’s decision left school administrators scrambling over the weekend trying to make plans for school this week. Pritzker said Monday that Grischow’s decision cultivated chaos for parents, families, teachers, and school administrators.

Meanwhile, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to Pritzker on Tuesday saying people deserve to know his plan for removing the mask mandate. Durkin noted that Democratic governors in California, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut recently announced rollbacks of their mask requirements.

“Today I am dealing with irate parents scrambling for childcare to make it to work, students being separated in school buildings, and no answers from your administration,” Durkin wrote. “Your lack of a plan has forced people to give up hope that they can ever have a normal life in Illinois.”

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