Illinois Gov. Pritzker Orders Masking of Toddlers, Vaccine Requirement for Teachers

In this March 19, 2020 photo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question during a news conference in Chicago. Amid an unprecedented public health crisis, the nation’s governors are trying to get what they need from the federal government – and fast. But often that means navigating the disorienting …
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Thursday announced a new set of coronavirus restrictions, which includes the masking of toddlers and vaccine requirements for educators throughout the state.

Pritzker announced another statewide mask mandate, requiring individuals ages two and older to mask up in certain indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status.

“Illinois will join several other states that have reinstituted statewide indoor mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status, effective on Monday,” Pritzker said. “Masks work. Period.”

Notably, a recent University of Waterloo study found cloth and surgical masks are overwhelmingly not effective in blocking exhaled aerosols, despite the governor’s assertion that “masks work, period”:

“The results show that a standard surgical and three-ply cloth masks, which see current widespread use, filter at apparent efficiencies of only 12.4% and 9.8%, respectively,” the study concluded, noting that KN95 and N95 masks were far more effective at filtering out aerosols.

“Apparent efficiencies of 46.3% and 60.2% are found for KN95 and R95 masks, respectively, which are still notably lower than the verified 95% rated ideal efficiencies,” researchers continued in the data published last month prior to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversing course, advising fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks if they are in high-risk areas.

Additionally, Pritzker announced the state will also mandate all educators in the state through the college level be vaccinated, following similar moves in California,  New Jersey, and Oregon, beginning September 5.

“To put it bluntly, because of the Delta variant hospitals are again fighting the battle that we had hoped would be behind us by now,” Pritzker said:

To be clear, what I am announcing today is a floor — at a minimum, those who work in schools and health care settings should be vaccinated or tested, keeping our kids and our most vulnerable safe for state workers and congregate facilities we have put in place more stringent requirements to protect our most vulnerable.

According to NBC Chicago, “Those who remain unvaccinated will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, but may require additional testing in some cases like outbreaks.”

Both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Illinois Education Association praised the vaccine mandate for teachers.

“The surge of COVID-19 cases in our state reminds us that this vaccine mandate is a public health imperative,” they said in a joint statement.

“To implement it properly, widespread education and access to vaccines will be essential. For members who cannot, or will not, get vaccinated, we are glad to see the governor has implemented twice weekly COVID testing,” they added.

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