These mandates overlap with other rules in many places and are in response to an increase in COVID-19 infection, especially in central Illinois.
Pritzker, a first term Democrat, stated that "our current vaccination levels are insufficient to mitigate the ferocity and the delta variant hospitalization spikes." He spoke at a Chicago news conference. Hospital administrators in some areas are seeking more assistance to manage the influx of patients. These are almost all individuals who have not received the life-saving vaccine.
Pritzker stated that the requirements were designed to protect vulnerable populations, such as young children not yet eligible for vaccines. Pritzker stated that 98% of Illinois' COVID-19-related infections between January and July were unvaccinated.
The mask order applies to all people aged 2 or older regardless of their vaccination status. This order is similar to one issued in May 2020 and later relaxed for those who were vaccinated. Health care workers including nurses, educators, support staff, and teachers in higher education must receive their first doses of the vaccine by Sept. 5. Non-compliance will result in weekly COVID-19 testing.
Similar requirements have been set by other states and cities. Earlier this month, California required all teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
With more than 4,400 cases reported Wednesday in Illinois, the surge has caused hospitals in less-populated areas of the state to be overwhelmed. These areas have low vaccination rates and are home to fewer healthcare facilities. According to state health officials, less than half the population in southern Illinois is vaccinated. In fact, there was just one ICU hospital bed left earlier this week.
Pritzker's office reports that more than 20 COVID-19-related outbreaks were reported by public health departments across the state in August.
Illinois already requires that all schools wear a mask. Chicago Public Schools, as well as the University of Illinois, have two of the most important education systems in the country, and require educators to be vaccinated. Students are also required to be vaccinated by the University of Illinois system. Many hospital systems also require employees to be vaccinated.
Teachers unions support the masking and vaccine rules. However, some schools have not enforced them. There have also been complaints from conservative lawmakers and private schools.