Despite restraining order, Pritzker still won’t say when he’ll lift his mask mandate

Despite restraining order, Pritzker still won’t say when he’ll lift his mask mandate

ILLINOIS (IRN) — As other Democrat-led states give a specific date as to when they’ll lift their mask mandates, Gov. J.B. Pritzker still won’t say when his mandate for Illinois will be lifted, despite it being deemed null and void by a circuit court judge.

“So I’m the first person that wants to make sure that we’re removing mitigations where we can to keep people safe and healthy,” Pritzker said Tuesday in Springfield.

Illinois is one of about a dozen states in the country that mandate masks in schools and one of about six states with an indoor mandate. But in recent days, other Democrat-led states such as New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware have signaled an end date on requiring masks. Most states led by Republican governors have not had statewide mask mandates since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pritzker wouldn’t clearly give an end date for his mandate, or if it would be for good.

“Now that we have treatments, widespread vaccinations, testing available, and we all know to wear a mask when things get more difficult and there may be another variant,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker has issued 23 consecutive monthly disaster proclamations and issued dozens of executive orders since March 2020.

“Your play was backed by the Democrat leaders in the General Assembly, who happily gave you free rein to impose restrictions and mandates across the state,” Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in a letter to the governor Tuesday. “I disagreed with this approach and have often urged you to work collaboratively with the General Assembly, to no avail. You refused to listen to anyone who disagreed with your decisions.”

Messages seeking comment from Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, were not retuned. 

Durkin said Pritzker has personally denied requests to have administration officials appear before the Republican caucus to answer questions about the COVID-19 science behind his mitigations.

“Now we are entering year three of this top-down strategy, and we see the chaos that it has caused,” Durkin said. “Your lack of a plan has forced people to give up hope that they can ever have a normal life in Illinois.”

Pritzker’s mandate for students and staff to wear masks in school was deemed null and void by a Sangamon County judge Friday. Pritzker is appealing that temporary restraining order. Since then, some schools have gone mask optional, others went remote or have been excluding maskless students from class.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, who’s vying for the Republican nomination for governor, said Pritzker’s power over local school boards is a facade and schools can’t exclude students from class without due process.

“That law is being broken by a one-man tyrant and the people of Illinois are simply going to have to stand up against this,” Bailey, R-Xenia, told The Center Square.

He said as a lawmaker he’s asked for the science and data driving Pritzker’s decisions for months on end without anything to show.

“Something is very, very wrong, and when it affects our children, their education and their future, it’s gotta be stopped,” Bailey said.

Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who’s also running for the Republican nomination for governor, said in a statement that stories of kids being locked in gyms this week for not wearing masks is deeply concerning and the governor needs to be clear in ending the mandate “once and for all.”

“Today we stand with families throughout the state who are letting their voices be known, demanding that J.B. Pritzker follows the science and lifts statewide mask mandates,” Sullivan said.

Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, who’s also running in the GOP gubernatorial primary, said he opposes mandates and supports individuals’ rights to make their own decisions.

“I applaud the judge’s decision on issuing the TRO against the mask mandate,” Schimpf said.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, is Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s running mate in the GOP primary. She criticized the governor in a Twitter video.

“He’s ignored the input of lawmakers certainly but from parents and local communities,” Bourne said. “His one-sized fits all approach has not worked for this state.”

When pushed for specifics on when he’ll lift his mandate, Pritzker wouldn’t give any.

“Stay tuned,” Pritzker said. “We’re very close.”

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