ILLINOIS (IRN) — With continued COVID-19 mandates dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker nearing a full two years, some want to curb his authority.
Pritzker on Wednesday announced his statewide indoor mask mandate is set to expire at the end of the month with the exception of schools and congregate settings if COVID-19 metrics continue downward.
Despite a judge ruling his school mandate null and void last week, Pritzker on Thursday in Rock Island insisted he has the power to mandate masks in schools. He wouldn’t give a metric for when he’ll lift his order.
“I make the final decision as governor,” Pritzker said. “But you don’t want a politician to be randomly picking a number. You want us to talk to and listen to the doctors as I have all along.”
State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, has for more than a year demanded that the Legislature approve consecutive executive orders.
“Because no one should act alone for this long deciding the fate and what happens for the people of the state of Illinois,” Ugaste said.
When reached for comment Thursday, Senate President Don Harmon’s office wouldn’t say whether the legislature would address the issue of mask mandates to provide clarity to parents and schools.
“The end of the mask mandate is possible because millions of Illinoisans have done their part to protect themselves, their families, their neighbors and their communities,” Harmon spokesman John Patterson told The Center Square in an email. “President Harmon thanks all of them for their efforts and understanding.”
As to the judge’s temporary restraining order against the governor’s school mandate, Patterson said that’s “the subject of ongoing legal action.”
Pritzker is appealing.
Republican candidates for governor say the incumbent Democrat’s ongoing school mask mandate flies in the face of that court order.
State Rep. Averey Bourne, R-Morrisonville, is the running mate for GOP governor candidate and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. She told WMAY Pritzker is trying to stand in the way of local school boards and parents making their own decisions. She said his mandate must end.
“Certainly now with the court ruling it seems like it should happen much sooner rather than the governor giving no end date for schools and daycares,” Bourne said.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, who is also running for the Republican nomination for governor, said local school boards should govern themselves.
“Local units of government are in control,” Bailey said. “Local units of government have been elected to represent their people.”
He said Pritzker continues to issue threats of taking away funding or recognition status from schools for not complying with his order.
Businessman Gary Rabine, who also is running for governor, said in a statement Pritzker is compounding chaos by lifting mask mandates for everywhere except schools.
“COVID chaos and a crime epidemic are Pritzker’s legacy,” Rabine said. “It’s time to take our state back.”
Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan said Pritzker’s continuation of mask mandates in schools is unacceptable.
“Under J.B. Pritzker’s new round of orders, Illinois kids don’t have to wear masks in restaurants, stores, museums or church – but they do in schools,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Mandates in schools won’t be lifted for weeks and he is already talking about reinstating them in the future. This isn’t real science. It’s political science.”