Pritzker: “Yes, we are really going to do that”

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker responds to reporters' questions at an August 24 news conference in Chicago. Photo: Illinois Blueroom Stream

CHICAGO – Illinois Governor JB Pritzker received a question Tuesday at a news conference asking if he was going to follow through with strict enforcement measures against local school districts that voted to remain mask-optional.

Reporter: “So far, 51 school districts out of 859 are defying your mask mandate and allowing parental choice. Are you really going to withdraw funding, take away their sports and deny their high school diplomas, or was that just an idle threat?”

Pritzker: “Am I really going to do that? Yes, we are really going to do that. And by the way, many school districts are heeding our call to have mask mandates in their schools. And so they’re reversing their position. What I would tell you is that it’s extraordinarily important that we keep our kids safe. Remember, the numbers are going up before schools went back in session.”

“What I can tell you is that those schools that are not following the mask requirements for their children are, of course, endangering their children, they’re also endangering the people who work in the school, the parents and grandparents who pick up and drop off their children at school.”

“We are living in a very dangerous moment of coronavirus, an upswing of the delta variant across the nation and here in Illinois. I am deeply concerned especially that the delta variant is having an increasingly serious medical impact on younger people, not just young children who attend school, but older kids in high school and the young teachers who come to work at schools every day and so we’re trying simply to ask people to make sure that people are following a mitigation that we know works.”

“And now…I’m just explaining to you that look at all of the other states around the country where schools have reopened, and now you’ve seen schools close right back up again, or have massive numbers of kids who need to stay at home because they’ve caught COVID, or because they’ve been exposed to COVID. So, let’s get serious about this.” 

“I mean, I realize that there are people who like to show up and shout at local school boards, at the local school board members. But the reality is that the vast majority of people in Illinois want to make sure that the children of Illinois, their parents, their communities are safe. And having a mask mandate operative in schools will help to do that.”

But the governor also said this after he was asked about actions being taken by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:

“Local leaders need to make decisions for their local populations to make sure to keep them safe, and those decisions need to be made in a serious fashion to make sure that they’re doing everything that they can to keep everybody safe,” Pritzker said. “We set a standard in the state of Illinois, a minimum, but local officials should react properly to the data in their local areas in order to keep everybody safe.”

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