As COVID-19 infection rates across the state continue to increase and with a number of school districts not yet adopting CDC guidance on masking, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced masks will be required for students, teachers and staff at pre-kindergarten-12th grade schools and day-care facilities 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 new measures are part of the state's ongoing effort to combat a new surge as the Delta variant rapidly spreads among the unvaccinated.
The Illinois Education Association sent a statement to Windy City Times expressing gratitude that "Pritzker put into effect a 'mask required' order for schools starting this fall."
The statement continued, "The pandemic is not over. The numbers in Illinois are going in the wrong direction. We need to keep our students in the classroom and keep them, and those who teach and work with them in schools, safe. Masks, along with other mitigation, such as ventilation, testing, appropriate cleaning and protective gear, are proven tactics."
"We all want to get back to normal. Let's pull together and take care of one another. Vax up and mask up. We owe it to our students and we owe it to each other," said Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin. "We're so thankful to have leadership in this state that won't let the virus fester and grow. But, it [is] up to all of us to bring COVID-19 to its knees."
Pritzker 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, which 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.