Some question if political science was part of relaxing COVID-19 mandates in Illinois

Some question if political science was part of relaxing COVID-19 mandates in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, IL — While some say the science of COVID-19 has led to Illinois lifting its mask mandate in most places, including schools and daycare settings, others say the move has more to do with political science.

Two years ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration said COVID-19 wasn’t a threat to the general public. On Tuesday, Pritzker reflected on how quickly that changed.

“Shortly after, Illinois would become the second state in the nation to issue a stay-at-home order, an unprecedented action to address and unprecedented unknown,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker’s stay-at-home order lasted ten weeks. That included closing schools for in-person education until last August. The governor also issued executive orders limiting economic activity by setting capacity limits to varying degrees in some businesses.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the damage from the governor’s unilateral orders the past two years is vast, impacting businesses and beyond.

“Just what we’ve done to school kids over the last two years has been completely irrational,” Wilhour told The Center Square on Tuesday. “We always knew where the risks were. It was not there [for school children].”

Since last summer, most states in the country didn’t have COVID-19 mitigations in place like Illinois did, which included mask mandates in schools.

Pritzker on Friday morning said while masks would no longer be required in most indoor settings, he’d review how that goes before making the decision to lift masks mandates in schools. He then reversed course, saying updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance drove the decision.

Pritzker on Tuesday said when the pandemic turns endemic isn’t his choice to make.

“I’ve always promised to listen to the experts and I’m not going to stop doing that right now,” Pritzker said.

Wilhour said Pritzker’s about-face Friday on school mask mandates shows there’s political science at play.

“I think there was some polling data that came out from a major national polling firm for the Biden administration that told the Democrats that ‘hey, these parents, these students, these business owners, they’re concerned, they’re right to be concerned, and you better start getting on their side because the politics are turning against you on this and there’s gonna be a bloodbath at the polls in 2022,’” Wilhour said.

According to the SFGate.com, a poll presented to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month indicated “57% of voters in competitive congressional districts agree with the statement, ‘Democrats in Congress have taken things too far in their pandemic response,’ and 66% of self-defined ‘swing’ voters in competitive districts agree with that statement.”

Wilhour and other Republicans continued Tuesday to refuse to wear masks in the Illinois House, despite the House Rules requiring face coverings. Democrats voted to eject the group, as they’ve done several times since members returned last month. Ejected members were allowed to participate remotely.

Pritzker on Tuesday thanked Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike for her service. Ezike is stepping down from the $178,200-a-year job as the state’s top doctor on March 14.

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