Pritzker extends COVID emergency powers for 33rd time

Pritzker extends COVID emergency powers for 33rd time

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is declaring Illinois a disaster for the 33rd time since the pandemic began, meaning he’s given himself emergency powers for nearly 70% of his term.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended his COVID emergency powers Aug. 19 for the 33rd time, with the newest proclamation expiring Sept. 17.

At the end of his newest proclamation, Pritzker will have held emergency powers for 919 of his 1,341 days in office, or 68% of his term.

Since the early days of the pandemic, Pritzker has used those powers to issue 116 executive orders related to COVID-19. He hinted at lifting them back in April, but has been silent on it recently.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to remove all of them eventually, and the disaster declaration,” Pritzker said April 27.

Emergency executive powers are designed for dire times, such as when there’s a tornado or no way to vaccinate people against a disease. Thirty-three proclamations later, more than 80% of Illinoisans over age 5 have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, so where’s the emergency?

When the pandemic hit, social distancing was a norm across the country. On Aug 11, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to no longer recommend social distancing or quarantining if people have been exposed to COVID-19.

One federal health official pointed out how much has changed since March 2020.

“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years,” Greta Massetti, who leads the Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch at the CDC, said Aug. 18.

Pritzker’s streak of disaster hasn’t changed. Without legislative oversight of emergency powers, Pritzker can keep writing his own rules.

Illinois should follow 34 other states that expect lawmakers to check their governor’s emergency executive powers. Illinois is the only Midwestern state still under a COVID emergency declaration, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Ohio implemented a new law allowing the state legislature to roll back executive emergency powers in March 2021.

After two and one-half years of life with the virus, it’s time for Illinois’ COVID response to be in the hands of more than one man.

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