Illinois Requires COVID-19 Vaccine for Students, Mandates Masks

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
August 26, 2021US News
Illinois Requires COVID-19 Vaccine for Students, Mandates Masks
Illinois Gov. J.B. Prtizker announces a statewide mandate requiring masks be worn in all Illinois public schools, preschool through high school in Chicago on Aug. 4, 2021. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a statewide mask mandate and ordered every eligible student, among other “high-risk settings,” to get vaccinated against the CCP virus.

Pritzker, a Democrat, said the vaccination mandate will apply to Pre-k–12 teachers and staff, higher education personnel, and students, as well as healthcare workers, nursing home employees, and the offices of doctors, according to a government statement.

Anyone who refuses, or is unable, to get vaccinated is required to get tested for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus “at least once per week,” Pritzker said, noting that this may get increased by the Department of Public Health (DPH) or the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in certain situations.

The new statewide mask mandate will apply to everyone in all indoor settings who is over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status. The measure will go into effect on Aug. 30.

“While face coverings are not required outdoors, masks are strongly encouraged in crowded outdoor settings like festivals and concerts as well as for activities that require close contact with people who are not vaccinated,” the statement reads.

The latest policy was issued amid a resurgence of CCP virus cases spurred largely by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and increasing reports of “breakthrough” cases in which people already vaccinated get infected.

“To put it bluntly, we are fighting a battle we thought would be over,” Pritzker said. “Unfortunately we’re running out of time as all of our hospitals are running out of beds.”

Pritzker also noted that since Aug. 1, health officials in the state have reported 27 outbreaks of the CCP virus at schools, resulting in hundreds of schools being observed for potential COVID-19 exposures.

Earlier this month, the ISBE punished 37 public school districts with a total enrollment of nearly 30,000 students as of Aug. 23 for not following Pritzker’s school mask mandate, ISBE records show.

NTD Photo
Parents and children line up outside George B. Armstrong International Studies Elementary School in Chicago on March 1, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

On Monday, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given full approval for use by the federal government. But the Pfizer authorization is for people ages 16 and older, not younger children.

Pritzker’s announcement also came in the wake of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent order requiring all city employees, including police and firefighters, to be vaccinated or have proof of a valid medical or religious exemption.

The policy in the third-largest U.S. city comes as numerous other municipalities, school districts, and governments across the nation grapple with masking and vaccination requirements.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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