SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday the focus during the coronavirus pandemic should be on protecting communities and not whether families make decisions about sons and daughters strapping on football helmets or spiking volleyballs.
A day after refusing to retract an earlier prohibition on fall sports despite protests around the state, the Democrat said at a Chicago news conference that the decision must consider more than the athletes, coaches and staff.
“This deadly virus should remind us that there are some individual choices that have enormous life-changing impacts on others,” Pritzker said. “While parents might choose to send their children out onto the playing field, I can tell you that someone else becomes ill because of that decision wouldn’t call that ‘your personal choice.’”
Pritzker’s Illinois Department of Public Health demanded an adjusted high school sports schedule for this school year, and the IHSA responded in late July with a plan that included shutting down the traditional prep gridiron schedule until spring.
But anxious football fans revolted. IHSA Executive Director asked in a letter to Pritzker last week to let the governing body resume control of its sports schedule.
Public health officials said Wednesday that there were 35 more deaths related to COVID-19 among 1,941 additional infections. There have now been 8,367 deaths in Illinois related to the disease that results from the coronavirus. Overall, there have been 266,151 confirmed cases.
Pritzker said he sent a letter Wednesday to the state’s congressional delegation urging approval of a hoped-for economic relief package from Washington meant to help state bank accounts devastated by the pandemic. The General Assembly adopted a budget last spring that included an expected $5 billion contribution in federal money. Absent that, Pritzker has told his agency chiefs to identify 5% spending cuts in the current budget.
Additionally, Pritzker said the state is waiting for about $1 billion it’s still expecting to pay bills in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
He also contacted the Illinois State Board of Elections to urge using money in the budget to recruit election judges, who oversee the polls on Election Day in November. Historically, judges have overwhelmingly been seniors. Their participation might be down because older people face greater health threats from contracting COVID-19. The budget includes $4 million to establish drop boxes for voters who chose not to vote in person. Pritzker suggested using some of that money in the election-judge effort.