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Illinois Gov. Pritzker introduces mask mandate for schools as Covid cases surge

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Brian Cassella | Chicago Tribune | Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced a mask mandate for all state students regardless of their vaccination status at a news conference Wednesday, requiring facial coverings in all indoor settings from preschool through high school.

Pritzker noted that the new order would impact 1.8 million unvaccinated children under the age of 12. In addition to requiring masks in schools, Pritzker mandated facial coverings in all long-term care facilities in state, as well as in state-run corrections facilities, veterans homes, psychiatric hospitals and developmental centers.

“Preventing outbreaks from the start also prevents kids from having to stay home because they’re sick or in quarantine,” Pritzker said.

The move comes as the coronavirus delta variant spreads rapidly across the state and the nation.

Illinois experienced a 46% increase in cases last week, a seven-day average of almost 1,669 new coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Pritzker’s announcement also comes as state and local governments continue to introduce health measures to mitigate the spread of the infectious disease. On Monday, seven counties in Northern California issued a mask mandate for all indoor settings, elevating a facial covering advisory issued in July to a requirement.

That same day, Louisiana issued a new statewide mask mandate for residents in public indoor settings until at least Sept. 1, a measure that includes students from kindergarten to college. Nevada revived its mask mandate for indoor public spaces on July 27, though it applies only to counties with elevated Covid transmission rates.

And on Tuesday, New York City mandated vaccinations for employees and patrons of the city’s restaurants, gyms, and entertainment centers, an order that will take effect in September. Mayor Bill de Blasio also said in June that city schools would keep their mask mandates in place.

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