Illinois has another indoor mask mandate. And vaccines are mandatory for teachers.
CHICAGO — As expected, Gov. JB Pritzker imposed a statewide mask mandate Thursday, requiring everyone 2 and older to wear face coverings inside public spaces beginning Monday, Aug. 30.
Pritzker also announced vaccination requirements for individuals in high-risk settings. All healthcare workers, including nursing home employees, all pre-k-12 teachers and staff, as well as higher education personnel and students will now be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The public health requirements come as regions with low vaccination rates continue to see a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. In IDPH region 5, southern Illinois, with the lowest vaccination rate in the state at 44 percent, only 3% of ICU beds are available as the region experiences the highest case rate in the state. Since Aug. 1, local health departments across the state have reported 27 COVID-19 outbreaks at schools and currently hundreds of schools are being monitored for potential COVID-19 exposures.
“The quick spread of this disease in Illinois and across the country is holding us all back from the post-pandemic life we so desperately want to embrace, and it’s harming the most vulnerable among us,” Pritzker said at a Tuesday news conference. “We are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds. Vaccination remains our strongest tool to protect ourselves and our loved ones, to restore post-pandemic life to our communities, and most crucially, to maintain our healthcare system’s ability to care for anyone who walks through their doors in need of help – and Illinois is taking action to keep our communities safe.”
He added that the the vast majority of hospitalizations, as well as cases and deaths, are among those who are unvaccinated.
“This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We have safe, proven, and effective tools to turn the tide and end this pandemic,” he said. “But until more people are vaccinated, masks are the order of the day and will help us slow the spread of the virus.”
Workers who do not receive the vaccine or those who opt out for medical reasons or based on a sincerely held religious belief must follow a routine testing schedule to detect cases early and prevent further spread. Testing will be required a minimum of once per week in schools and healthcare facilities. The frequency of testing may be required to increase in the event of positive cases.
Healthcare, school workers, and higher education personnel and students attending in-person classes who do not provide proof of vaccination will be prevented from entering healthcare and educational facilities unless they follow the required testing protocol.