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Workers in state licensed day care centers will have to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing under an executive order issued Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The state estimates the order will apply to about 55,000 workers at nearly 2,900 day care centers licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Friday’s order puts privately run day care centers in line with the vaccination requirements for public and private schools that went into effect Sept. 19 after being delayed two weeks from the original deadline for first doses.
The order comes as Pritzker continues to struggle to get the largest state employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, to agree to a vaccine mandate for members working at state prisons and other congregate facilities.
The Dec. 3 deadline for day care workers to get their first shot is followed by a requirement they get their second dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by Jan. 3.
Any worker who is not fully vaccinated — having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine — by Dec. 3 will have to undergo weekly testing.
“Vaccinations offer lifesaving protection for the people who receive them and make the community safer for the people who can’t — including the babies, toddlers and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine,” Pritzker said in a statement with his latest order.
Federal health officials could give emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 5 by early next month, but shots for the youngest children aren’t expected to become available until next year.
Day care centers have been subject to a mask mandate for anyone 2 and older since early August, even before the latest statewide mandate for all indoor public places went into effect.
Pritzker has continued to face pushback from the legislature’s Republican minority, who criticize the Democratic governor for acting unilaterally in response to the pandemic.
A group of Republican women in the state Senate on Friday called the vaccine mandate for day care workers “an attack on working mothers as they resume a more normal work schedule.”
“Gov. Pritzker’s action has the potential to exacerbate an already growing child care crisis in our state,” said a statement from GOP Sens. Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, Sue Rezin of Morris, Sally Turner of Beason) and Jil Tracy of Quincy. “It’s a shortsighted act that will diminish the already limited and sparse availability of child care to families in Illinois.”
Pritzker has stopped short of requiring all state workers under his authority to get vaccinated, though his earlier order mandating shots or testing for school employees also covered college employees and students and health care workers. Tuesday was the deadline for people covered by that order to receive their second dose.
While hospital systems in the state have seen hundreds of workers quit over vaccine requirements, which in many cases are stricter than Pritzker’s order, hospitals say the overwhelming majority of employees complied.
A federal judge has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on a request for a temporary restraining order blocking Pritzker’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, along with Chicago’s mandate for city workers.
Schools districts also have seen some employees refuse to get vaccinated or undergo testing, and some districts have been sued for enforcing the governor’s order.
The state requires school districts to track which employees are vaccinated, which aren’t vaccinated but are complying with testing requirements, and which are excluded from school premises for noncompliance, Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson Jackie Matthews said Friday. While state officials are investigating complaints about noncompliant schools, they are not tracking vaccination rates among school employees, Matthews said.
But similar to hospitals, some districts say their workers largely have been compliant.
At Elgin-based School District Unit 46, for example, around 90% of staff members — nearly 6,000 employees — have been vaccinated, Superintendent Tony Sanders said.
In addition, the district has roughly “600 employees who are not vaccinated and are complying with weekly testing,” Sanders said.
“Three part-time employees refused to comply with either vaccinations or testing and, as such, are unable to work,” Sanders said, adding that those employees are not being paid.
Pritzker has repeatedly announced and then pushed back deadlines for workers in certain fields to be vaccinated.
Last week, he again delayed the deadline for workers in state prisons, youth detention facilities, veterans homes, developmental centers and congregate care facilities to be vaccinated.
State workers covered by the governor’s executive order now have until Nov. 30 to be fully vaccinated, nearly two months later than the deadline Pritzker laid out in August.
The governor’s office said this week that it reached an agreement with a fifth union representing some of those workers. The deal with the Teamsters — which, like the other four, only allows a testing alternative for workers with an approved medical or religious objection — brings the number of employees covered by vaccination agreements to 2,100.
AFSCME, which has yet to reach a deal, represents about 15,000 workers who would be covered by Pritzker’s order.
Pritzker’s latest order comes as state health officials Friday reported 2,969 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, the highest one-day total in more than two weeks. Over the past week, the state has averaged 2,162 cases per day, down from an average of 2,238 daily cases a week earlier and 3,275 a month ago.
The state on Friday reported 27 additional fatalities, bringing the statewide death toll to 25,590 since the pandemic began.
Over the past week, an average of 29,950 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered statewide per day. That’s up from an average of 18,793 a month earlier, just before federal officials authorized booster shots for older or more vulnerable people who received the Pfizer vaccine.
Booster shots have been outpacing first or second shots nationally and in Illinois. The numbers could continue to rise in the coming weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off Thursday on boosters for the same categories of people who received the Moderna vaccine and anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The federal government also authorized those eligible for boosters to receive a different vaccine than they did the first time around.
Pritzker is among those who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The governor’s office said he plans to get a booster now that they’ve been authorized but didn’t provide any additional details.
Chicago Tribune’s Karen Ann Cullotta and Jason Meisner contributed.