School mask decision by judge 'cultivates chaos,' Pritzker says

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Monday blasted a downstate judge's order temporarily lifting face mask restrictions at numerous school districts as sowing "chaos" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow's "decision cultivates chaos for parents, families, teachers and school administrators across the state," Pritkzer said at an event in Chicago.

"More importantly, it constrains the ability of the named school districts to maintain safe, in-person learning requirements."

Grischow on Friday issued a temporary restraining order, which effectively prevents schools from enforcing mask, quarantine and COVID-19 test requirements at multiple districts. It stems from a lawsuit filed by 145 families stating that quarantines infringe on students' rights and that districts have no lawful authority to mandate masks in class.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is seeking to reverse the decision that left administrators scrambling this weekend to react and inform families about whether students should show up with masks or not on Monday. A total of 145 school districts were named in the lawsuit including suburban ones such as Elgin Community Unit District U-46.

"The judge has created a tremendous amount of confusion even in the way she wrote her decision," Pritzker said.

"Illinois schools that have not been named as defendants in the lawsuit should continue to follow the prescribed public health protocols which have ... made it possible for kids to continue learning in person."

Pritzker also said districts with a "shared understanding with their labor unions" regarding health requirements must continue to follow those.

Overall, "districts ought to err on the side of protecting everybody in the school," Pritzker noted, adding that Illinois is only just starting to climb out of a deadly COVID-19 surge in December and January amid the highly infectious omicron variant.

In her ruling, Grischow said districts had adopted policies "that have held children will be excluded from school in the event they do not wear a mask on school premises ... further preventing them from receiving an in-person education."

Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases decreased by 39% in a week. Monday's average was 7,221 compared to 11,873 on Jan. 31, Illinois Department of Public Health data showed.

New cases of COVID-19 reached 13,953 over the weekend with 187 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the IDPH reported.

Patients in the hospital with COVID-19 came to 2,744 as of Sunday night. The seven-day average is 3,192 hospitalizations.

Between Friday and Sunday, 73,307 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 25,238.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 5.5% based on a seven-day average.

So far, 8,426,262 people have been fully vaccinated or 66.5% of Illinois' 12.7 million population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's.

Of those people who are fully vaccinated, 47.8% have received a booster shot.

The IDPH reported 5,565 new cases on Saturday, 3,687 on Sunday and 4,701 on Monday. Deaths came to 89 on Saturday, 67 on Sunday, and 31 on Monday. The state does not update data on weekends.

Total cases statewide stand at 2,971,516 and 31,483 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

The federal government has delivered 23,202,545 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, 2021, and 20,696,791 shots have been administered.

Labs processed 106,566 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

Court weighing whether to block school COVID mitigations statewide

Illinois judge blocks school mask mandate, state to appeal

  Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses a lawsuit and temporary restraining order that lifts COVID-19 mask rules at some school districts during a Monday event in Chicago as Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly, far left, and others listen. Marni Pyke/
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