With schools reopening in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker is taking no chances with the delta variant strain of the coronavirus. Pritzker on Thursday declared that all educators from pre-K through college must be vaccinated, along with higher education students and all of the state’s healthcare workers.
The governor also re-implemented an indoor mask mandate for everyone over the age of two, regardless of their vaccination status, effective August 30. The deadline for teachers and healthcare workers to get vaccinated is September 5. After that, those who are unable or unwilling to get the shot will have to get tested for COVID at least once per week.
The Chicago Tribune writes that the indoor mask requirement comes as there has been a sharp increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the state among younger people and the unvaccinated, as well as with increasing reports of “breakthrough cases” among those who have received the vaccine.
The governor made it clear that the most viable path to getting out of the pandemic is through the vaccines.
“Let’s be clear, vaccination is the most effective tool we have for keeping people out of the hospital and preventing deaths. Nearly all Illinoisans who are hospitalized with COVID are the Illinoisans who are not vaccinated.”IL Governor J.B. Pritzker
Calling it a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Gov. Pritzker highlighted statistics that show 98% of positive cases in July as well as 96% of hospitalizations and 95% of deaths, were among unvaccinated people.
More from the Tribune:
A Tribune analysis of state and federal data has found that the rate of hospitalization for the unvaccinated has risen nearly seven-fold since the end of June. The weekly rate of hospital admittance for that group is now above 28 per 100,000 residents, approaching the peak of 35 last fall.
While the vaccine doesn’t stop every bad case of COVID, the data shows it works exceedingly well at preventing a COVID case from requiring a visit to the hospital. The weekly hospital admittance rate for fully vaccinated is barely 2 per 100,000 residents, which is about four times higher than it was before the surge in delta variant cases but still much lower than the rate for those who are unvaccinated.
Pritzker’s announcement marks a big change from his position just a few days ago. He said then that he had no intention of expanding a vaccine mandate beyond state nursing homes, veterans’ facilities and prisons.
Some of Illinois’ Republican lawmakers criticized the governor for not bringing them into discussion about expanding the vaccine mandate and bringing back mask-wearing policies.