Pritzker issues indoor mask mandate, vaccine mandate for school staff and healthcare workers

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced an indoor mask mandate for Illinois starting Monday and a vaccine mandate for all school staff from Pre-K through college effective Sep. 5.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike made the announcement Thursday morning, including healthcare workers and nursing home employees to the list of those being required to vaccinate.

Those who are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated will be required to get tested for the coronavirus at least twice a week.

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Masks will be required for those ages 2 and older in all public indoor settings starting Monday, regardless of vaccination status.

"Our current vaccination levels are not enough to blunt the ferocity of the delta variant hospitalization surges," Pritzker, a first-term Democrat, said at a Chicago news conference. "In some regions, hospital administrators are asking for more help to manage the sheer number of incoming patients who, I’ll empathize again, are almost exclusively individuals who have chosen not to have gotten the life-saving vaccine."

Pritzker said the requirements are designed to better protect move vulnerable populations, including young children who do not yet qualify for vaccines. Pritzker said that 98% of Illinois’ COVID-19 infections from January to July were among the unvaccinated.

Illinois has reported nearly 1,500,000 cases of COVID-19 and 23,816 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. The seven-day case positivity rate is currently at 5.1 percent.

Over 70 percent of Illinois residents ages 16 and up have been vaccinated, according to state health data

The announcement comes a day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that Chicago will require all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15.

On Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker warned everyone to be cautious as hospitals deal with increased admissions due to the virus.

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State health officials say a warning level is issued when hospitals have less than 20 percent available spots in their intensive care units and 37 counties are in that situation due to increases in COVID cases, other illnesses and injuries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.