Illinois announces mask mandate for schools, vaccinations for state workers

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Wednesday that the state would institute a mask mandate for preschool through high school students and staff and a vaccine mandate for some state employees.

Why it matters: The move comes as surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant in Illinois have led to rising hospitalization, ICU occupancy and ventilator use rates, per the governor's press release.

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State of play: All students, teachers and staff in preschool through the 12th grade will be required to wear face masks regardless of vaccination status. The order is effective immediately, according to the press release.

  • Face masks will be required for all indoor extracurricular activities and sports but will not be mandatory outdoors in areas where transmission rates are lower.

  • In addition, state workers in high-contact settings will be required to get vaccinated by Oct. 4. This would apply to employees in places such as state prisons, veterans' homes, and care facilities, among others.

What they're saying: “Given the CDC’s strong recommendation, I had hoped that a state mask requirement in schools wouldn’t be necessary. But it is," Pritzker said in Chicago Wednesday.

  • "As your governor, it's my duty to say that we must all take immediate and urgent action to slow the spread of the Delta variant," he said, per NBC Chicago. "People are dying who don't have to die."

  • "We’re so thankful to have leadership in this state that won’t let the virus fester and grow," Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said in a statement praising the announcement.

The big picture: Illinois is just the latest state to implement mandatory measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, some states, like Florida, remain resistant to such measures.

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