Illinois day care centers are concerned whether they will be able to staff locations after Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order requiring day care center workers statewide to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Pritzker issued the order (pdf) Friday for the state’s more than 55,000 day care workers. The deadline for the first shot of coronavirus vaccination is Dec. 3. The second shot deadline is Jan. 3, 2022.
“Vaccinations offer life-saving protection for the people who receive them and make the community safer for the people who can’t—including the babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine,” the governor said in a statement.
“By extending vaccine-or-test requirements to those who work at licensed day care centers, we are adding another level of protection for our youngest residents and preventing outbreaks in day care centers as more and more parents return to work,” Pritzker added.
The executive order states, “Daycare center staff statewide are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not done so already. Employees in these settings who are unable or unwilling to receive the vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once per week. Increased testing frequency may be required in certain situations.”
Individuals can apply for a medical or religious exemption, according to the executive order.
The state’s Women of the Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement Friday opposing the governor’s order.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for families across the state, but women in the workforce have been especially impacted by this unprecedented health crisis,” the state senators wrote.
“We witnessed countless parents struggling to find affordable and reliable child care for their children. And it was working mothers who were hit hardest, as they juggled their careers and child care during unpreceded circumstances,” they added.
The caucus statement also called the mandate “an attack on working mothers.”
“The reality is the most recent mandate is an attack on working mothers as they resume a more normal work schedule. Gov. Pritzker’s action has the potential to exacerbate an already growing child care crisis in our state. It’s a shortsighted act that will diminish the already limited and sparse availability of child care to families in Illinois,” the statement said.
Pritzker had already announced vaccination or regular testing requirements for all pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and staff and all higher education students and staff. Vaccine mandates also apply statewide for health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities and doctors’ offices.
In addition, all state employees who work in the Illinois Departments of Human Services (IDHS), Corrections (IDOC), Veterans Affairs (IDVA) and Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) must be vaccinated, according to the governor’s office.
Approximately 79 percent of Illinois residents 18 years old and older have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.