SPRINGFIELD — At a press conference last week, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced masks will be required for students, teachers, and staff at pre-kindergarten-12th grade schools and daycares across the state. The new requirement formalizes CDC guidance released in July on universal masking for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people in schools to ensure a safe return to classrooms.
The governor also announced his intent to require all state employees working in congregate facilities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 4. The state is informing the unions representing these employees of its intention to move forward with this requirement.
This covers employees at the Departments of Human Services, Veterans’ Affairs, Corrections and Juvenile Justice working in congregate facilities. The state is also requiring universal masking in private long-term care facilities and strongly encourages owners of private facilities to join the state in adopting vaccination requirements.
The new measures are part of the state’s ongoing effort to combat a new surge as the Delta variant rapidly spreads among the unvaccinated. In June, 96 percent of people hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, with the majority of those hospitalizations occurring in residents under 60 years old.
Clinton Superintendent Curt Nettles said neither he nor the board members were happy about the governor’s mandate.
“We were told we had local control to make this decision, but then that was taken away from us last Wednesday.”
“At this point in time, we will follow the mandate as we open school,” said Nettles. “We do realize that Executive Orders are not permanent, and we intend to monitor the situation closely. It is also our aim to work with other districts to regain local control in how we proceed with the school year in regard to mitigation strategies.”
“This is not how we wanted to start the school year, but we also need to heed the guidance of our legal team and our insurance carrier to protect the district from liability,” Nettles added.