Central Illinois community reacts to indoor mask mandate, new vaccination requirements

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Central Illinoisans are weighing in after Governor J.B. Pritzker handed down a series of mandates in response to the latest COVID-19 surge.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and ICU bed availability thin in portions of Illinois, Pritzker has issued an indoor mask mandate for everyone over the age of two in Illinois, starting Aug. 30.

“Masks work, period. The quick spread of this disease in Illinois and across the country is holding us all back from the post-pandemic life we so desperately want to embrace,” Pritzker said.

Locally, some say they support the governor’s mandate.

“I’m a musician and I love live music, and I don’t want to see our industry shut down again. I don’t want to see anything shut down again. So if we have to mask up as opposed to shutting down, mask up,” said Mindy Watkins, a Peoria resident.

There are also some community members that don’t want to see mandatory masking return.

“Forcing somebody to wear a mask inside, I don’t agree with that. Especially people that have already had shots. Now you’re telling me you need another shot? When is it going to be enough?” said Peoria resident Dereck White.

Thursday, Pritzker also announced school staff Pre-K through 12th grade will have to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing.

Peoria Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sharon-Kherat said her district is welcoming the measure.

“This is an all in effort to continue again that in-person experience which is the most effective for our students and staff,” Dr. Kherat said.

Kherat said she believes most staff members have already been vaccinated and said she doesn’t expect any major issues with the requirements.

“The important thing is being compliant with one or the other, either the vaccination or the testing and we’ll be fine,” Kherat said.

As for further mitigations like economic shutdowns, Pritzker said that’s not been considered as an option yet.

“I don’t anticipate we’ll get there and that’s not something currently on the table,” Pritzker said.

Kherat said her district’s HR department is waiting on further guidance from state and local health leaders on how to compile data on staff vaccinations.

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