Pritzker changes mask rules in 35th COVID disaster proclamation

Pritzker changes mask rules in 35th COVID disaster proclamation

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his 35th COVID-19 disaster proclamation, extending his powers for 70% of his term.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended his COVID-19 emergency powers through Nov. 12 – his 35th disaster proclamation.

When the newest emergency order ends, Pritzker will have held emergency powers for 975 of his 1,398 days in office, or 70% of his term.

The order lifts weekly testing requirements for unvaccinated employees working in health care settings and long-term care facilities.

Despite extending the disaster proclamation, Pritzker said COVID-19 is getting closer to being treated like the flu.

“COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic, like the flu, but it still poses a real threat to our immunocompromised and disabled communities,” Pritzker said.

A subsequent executive order is less optimistic. Pritzker updated masking recommendations regardless of vaccination status per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“All individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, are recommended to wear a face covering consistent with CDC guidance,” the order states.

The previous language only referred to the unvaccinated but was just a recommendation. Illinois’ mask mandate expired on Feb. 28, so where’s the emergency?

Pritzker could keep emergency powers as long as he sees fit. The Illinois General Assembly – a coequal branch of state government – has no oversight into executive disaster orders and has not shown any interest in limiting how often Pritzker issues them for the same disaster.

Most states operate differently: 34 give their legislative bodies some form of control over the emergency powers. Arizona enacted a law requiring the legislature to approve emergency extensions beyond 120 days.

Illinois currently has three statewide disasters that Pritzker has declared. The other two are for buses of migrants from Texas and the monkeypox virus. Unless state lawmakers decide to exert some control, there’s no telling how long Illinois will be a disaster zone.

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