CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday masks will be required for all students and staff this fall, and all Illinois employees will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to work.
Due to the vaccine not being approved for children under 12 and districts being reluctant to adopt mask mandates, all students preschool through 12th grade will be required to wear masks. Daycares are included in this mandate.
“Without these measures, we would likely see many more outbreaks than in the latter half of the last school year,” he said.
Face coverings will be required for all indoor recreational activities as well. Those playing outdoor sports will not be required to wear masks.
The Pritzker administration will be supplying masks to any districts that need them.
Last month, the CDC opened the door for school districts to make masks optional for students who have been vaccinated. Later, after a rise in Delta variant infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, and studies showing that vaccinated people can sometimes spread the virus, the federal health agency updated its position to recommend that all students and staff wear their masks indoors.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the number of hospitalizations for those under age 20 has tripled. Children are less likely to get the virus, she said, but it is still possible.
“Numerous cases of COVID-19 have been linked to youth camps,” she said, adding some took place in vaccinated students who caught the virus while away and brought it home.
In addition to masks, Ezike said vaccines are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
State employees will also be required to be vaccinated, Pritzker announced. The directive will take effect Oct. 4.
“It’s our obligation to exercise due care in protecting those residents,” he said.
All long-term care facility employees, including privately owned and operated facilities, will be required to wear masks as well.
“I will continue to listen to the IDPH and other experts to evaluate any and all necessary action to protect children, prevent death, and support our health care systems. I’m asking private health care companies to do the same,” he said.
In June, 96% of those hospitalized in Illinois due to COVID-19 were not vaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“Every time we think we know where this virus is headed, it changes and it shifts,” he said.
The largest group being affected are those unvaccinated, and everyone must work together to slow the spread of the Delta variant, he said. There is a limited amount of time to stave off the highest peaks of the surge going into the fall.
“For those of you who are still sitting on the fence about getting vaccinated, I urge you to talk to your own doctor,” he said, adding the vaccine is safe, effective, and prevents serious illness and death.
Pritzker asked all who are vaccinated to talk to those who are unvaccinated about the benefits of the vaccine.
“Let’s do what’s right not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and our communities,” Ezike added.