Masks to stay on in Illinois schools despite June 11 reopening
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants masks on and social distancing intact when children return to school next year. Most COVID-19 restrictions will be dropped June 11, but not all.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced June 10 that Illinois will move to a full reopening on June 11, but mask mandates and social distancing will remain a mainstay in Illinois schools.
Pritzker said it is critical that schools and day cares use and layer prevention strategies. The two most important ones are universal and correct use of masks, and physical distancing, which he said should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.
Pritzker has enforced COVID-19 mandates by issuing 18 disaster proclamations, a practice that is now under fire from some state lawmakers.
“We are operating and moving down a dangerous path if we allow governors either today or in the future to declare emergency declarations as long as they want without input from the General Assembly,” state Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-St. Charles, said.
Ugaste has House Bill 843 that would amend the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to require the governor to get legislative approval of consecutive disaster proclamations.
State lawmakers are also examining other COVID-19 fallout, including failings by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and their offices remaining closed, millions spent on hospital leases that were rarely or never used, and the severe backlog of Firearm Owners’ Identifications that doubled in the past 18 months.
Pritzker remained upbeat, but cautious.
“I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large – not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated,” he said.
Here are the details of what Pritzker’s “Phase 5” will look like for Illinoisans starting June 11.
Masks: They are still recommended for unvaccinated people. They are required on public transit including in terminals, in schools, day cares, health care settings and congregate settings such as prisons or nursing homes. Businesses and local municipalities may still require masks, but vaccinated people can remove their masks in most settings.
Social distancing: Businesses no longer need to enforce social distancing rules in seated venues such as restaurants and theaters. They no longer need to do daily health screenings of employees. Capacities can return to normal.
Gatherings: Conventions, festivals, concerts, ballgames and other large gatherings can return to normal without capacity limits. Same with weddings, funerals, church services and parties. McCormick Place convention center in Chicago is reopening with 122 events, 1,000 workers and an expected 1.9 million conventioneers headed there.
Schools: Masks on inside. No masks required outside, in most situations. Social distancing between 3 to 6 feet will be required. In-person learning is expected to resume with the new school year.
Work: Social distancing is still recommended to the extent possible. Workplaces may have additional requirements on masks and health rules, but those will not be state mandates.
Illinois is reopening as the state records a 1% positive test rate. More than 51% of Illinoisans age 12 and over are fully vaccinated, with about 62,000 shots administered June 9.
Pritzker in early May predicted June 11 would be the return to the new normal, but that didn’t stop him from issuing his 18th state disaster proclamation to extend his emergency powers until June 26. At the end of the current 30-day declaration, Pritzker will have wielded emergency powers for 474 consecutive days without state lawmakers weighing in on his mandates or policies.
Most states have not allowed emergency powers to last indefinitely. Emergency executive powers are meant to allow the governor to quickly address a disaster in a way that a deliberative body such as the General Assembly simply cannot. But when the disaster is more than a year old, there is little reason for rules to be dictated rather than debated and implemented by elected representatives.