State leaders block Pritzker from reimposing school mask mandate

State leaders block Pritzker from reimposing school mask mandate

Shortly after a downstate judge threw Pritzker’s mask mandates into question, a bipartisan committee voted against reimposing another K-12 school mask mandate.

On Feb. 15 the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) of the Illinois General Assembly voted 9-0-2 against extending Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency rules to enforce state mask, vaccine and testing mandates.

The Illinois Department of Public Health attempted to reissue an emergency rule to counteract a Feb. 4 Sangamon County court order temporarily halting the enforcement of the statewide school mask mandate, COVID-19 quarantine policies, and school staff vaccination and testing rules.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the Sangamon Court ruling “misguided” and said it would deprive schools of “sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe.” The attorney general said he was appealing it.

The new JCAR ruling prevents Pritzker and the IDPH from reissuing a statewide school mask mandate for K-12 public and private schools.

“Today, the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules made it clear that we would not accept the governor’s attempts to go above a court ruling made by a co-equal branch of government,” said state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris. “In his quest for power and control, Pritzker and his administration was willing to further the chaos and confusion for schools throughout the state. With this bipartisan vote, I hope that the Governor finally recognizes that his go-it-alone tactic is not in the best interest of our state or its people.”

Pritzker announced last week that Illinois will lift the statewide indoor mask mandate for most residents Feb. 28, except in schools, hospitals, retirement homes and on public transit.

In the Midwest, Illinois is the last state to revoke emergency pandemic masking requirements. The Land of Lincoln was also the only state in the region with a statewide school mask mandate still in effect.

Pritzker hinted that he would lift the “in the coming weeks” if rates continue their downward trajectory. However, the governor did not offer any specific threshold for COVID-19 metrics under which he would rescind his executive order for schools.

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