Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced that the state will be imposing a pre-K-12 school mask requirement regardless of vaccination status and mandatory inoculations for all state workers in congregate settings, citing a new COVID-19 surge.
Pritzker said in an Aug. 4 release that the mask mandate would apply to all students, teachers, and staff at pre-kindergarten through grade 12 schools and day cares statewide, effective immediately. Masks will be mandatory for all indoor extracurricular activities and sports but will not be required outdoors in areas where transmission risks and rates are lower.
Illinois is also requiring universal masking in long-term care facilities, also regardless of vaccination status, while “strongly” encouraging owners of private facilities to adopt vaccination requirements, as per the release.
Pritzker also announced his intent to require all state employees working in high-contact settings to get the shot by Oct. 4.
The new measures come as Illinois grapples with a surge in infections, hospitalizations, and ICU rates. According to the release, cases in Illinois have surged by a factor of nearly 10 compared to this summer’s lowest points, while 96 percent of the people hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 were partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.
“Given our current trajectory in hospitalizations and ICU usage, we have a limited amount of time right now to stave off the highest peaks of this surge going into the fall,” Pritzker said in a statement, in which he characterized the new measures as a way to “combat the Delta variant.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus—the pathogen that causes the disease COVID-19—to be more transmissible and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky earlier this week warned about the dangers of the Delta strain.
“The Delta variant is highly contagious,” Walensky said. “To put this in perspective, if you get sick with the Alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people. If you get sick with the Delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people—more than twice as many as the original strain.”
Walensky also said that infections with the Delta variant result in higher viral loads, meaning that people infected with the strain have “a larger burden of virus that they can spread to others.”
She renewed calls for people to get vaccinated, saying that the vast majority of spread in the United States is among people who have not been inoculated against the CCP virus.