SPRINGFIELD (The Center Square) – For most of the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois residents have been mandated to wear masks indoors per Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders. That ends Monday.
Earlier this month, Pritzker announced Feb. 28 will be the end of his statewide mandate for people to wear masks indoors in most settings, regardless of whether they’re healthy or not. He’s embroiled in a court battle over his mandates on schools where he insists he has the power to require healthy people to wear face coverings or be excluded and vaccinated or tested without due process.
“What happens when there is another omicron wave, or god forbid, at some future date, another pandemic or some other major emergency that affects everybody in this state,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker has filed an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The court has yet to announce whether they’ll take up the case.
State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said the Democratic-controlled legislature has failed to address Pritzker’s unilateral rule.
“All this chaos that’s existed in our schools and elsewhere could have been avoided if the governor simply subjected himself to the legislative process,” Barickman said.
House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) was asked Thursday when the legislature should get involved in the policy issue.
“With us being involved in litigation right now, if you have questions about specific things, send it off to the Speaker’s office and we’ll get an appropriate response,” Harris said.
The speaker’s office didn’t return a message requesting comment. The office has been sued by state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) and one of his constituents, over mask rules in the House that lead to several lawmakers being ejected over several days for not wearing face coverings.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced an end to mask and vaccine check mandates for Monday, but said she’ll still wear a mask after that.
“I was one of the people that caught COVID during this omicron surge, and while I had a mild case, I don’t want to put myself at risk,” Lightfoot said.
Masks also won’t be required in Secretary of State facilities, though employees of the agency will continue wearing them. Courts will also no longer be required to mandate masks come Monday.
Places masks will still be required, per the governor’s order, are health care settings, congregate settings, and public transportation. He said local governments and individual businesses can still have stricter mandates like mask requirements and vaccine status checks.
Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.