Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday announced a mask mandate for Illinois schools, attributing it to the threat of the delta variant of the Chinese coronavirus.
Pritzker made the announcement with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. The order will force “students, teachers, and staff at pre-kindergarten-12th grade schools and day cares across the state” to wear masks, aligning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent reversal on its masking policy, urging both the vaccinated and unvaccinated to wear masks in schools.
Per the press release:
Illinois is home to 1.8 million children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. With the Delta variant infecting the younger population at a greater rate and with people under 29 years old now accounting for 12 percent of COVID hospitalizations in June, requiring the use of masks is the most effective tool to allow students to return to their classrooms safely while protecting them from the virus. Mask wearing will also help prevent unvaccinated students from transmitting the virus to more vulnerable members of their broader communities.
The mask requirement is inclusive of youth sports and activities, with masks now required for all indoor extracurriculars and sports. In line with CDC guidance, masks are not required for activities outdoors where transmission risks and rates are lower.
The administration is providing free testing to all pre-K-12 schools in Illinois outside of Chicago, which received a separate federal funding allocation for testing.
“Given our current trajectory in hospitalizations and ICU usage, we have a limited amount of time right now to stave off the highest peaks of this surge going into the fall,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“To combat the delta variant, Illinois is taking three key steps to protect our state’s 1.8 million unvaccinated children under 12 and their families, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and those highly vulnerable people who rely upon state employees for their daily care,” he continued, urging every eligible Illinoisan to “get vaccinated as soon as possible” and describing it as “the best tool we have.”
Illinois has reported hundreds of fully vaccinated individuals being hospitalized for the Chinese coronavirus. According to a July 29 NBC Chicago report, nearly 650 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized, and over 160 fully vaccinated people have died of the virus in the state.
As Breitbart News reported, the state is not publicizing the number of fully vaccinated individuals who are testing positive for the virus, only reporting cases that require hospitalization or result in death, so the true number of breakthrough cases is likely significantly higher.