Gov. Pritzker pushes mask compliance as Illinois announces 1,382 new virus cases

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Sunday urged a committee of legislators to approve proposed Illinois Department of Public Health rules to bring businesses into compliance if they are not enforcing the May 1 requirement for people to wear masks in public if they cannot maintain a 6-foot social distance.

On Friday, the IDPH advanced the new emergency rules, which give businesses a warning and the ability to rectify an infraction before receiving a fine, which can range from $75 to $2,500.

Meanwhile, the state announced Sunday that 1,382 additional COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and eight more people have died. That is a big decline from the previous two days, when new cases were over 2,000, the highest since May. Numbers on the weekend aren't necessarily representative, however.

At a Sunday press conference, the governor called for members of the General Assembly who serve on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to approve the IDPH rules.

He said they call for "a modest level of enforcement similar to that which many other states already have" that "prioritizes education and support for businesses over shame and punishment."

In explaining the need for the new rules, he said, "We're also doing this for the businesses that are following the rules, while their competitors flout them. We're doing this for the people who have to work in the stores where their bosses won't enforce public health rules, thereby putting their lives and health at risk. We're doing this to reduce or even eliminate community spread so that if parents want their kids to go back to school, they'll have the best chance of preserving the option of in-person learning this fall."

He put it into perspective by saying, "Imagine if someone could walk into a restaurant, light a cigarette, blow smoke in your face and all the smoker had to say is, 'Well, it's my choice.'"

Pritzker was backed by IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "We're dealing with a deadly virus," he said, adding "7,636 individuals have lost their fight with COVID. That's a cold hard fact. If there's any debate about that, ask the doctors and the nurses that fought to try to save them. Ask their grieving loved ones."

On Sunday, the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA), which represents 88 certified local health departments, declared its support of the emergency rules. In a statement, it said, "These proposed rules allow for multiple opportunities and flexibility to help businesses and others come into compliance."

On Sunday, the state reported 41,354 tests in the previous 24 hours, for a total of 3,073,988 tests. The state's seven-day rolling positivity rate is 4.1%, according to the IDPH.

Most of the deaths reported Sunday occurred in the Chicago area, with 7 in Cook County.

As of Saturday night, 1,488 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 322 patients were in the ICU and 114 were on ventilators.

Statewide, 194,080 people in 102 counties have now tested positive for the virus. The age of cases ranges from younger than 1 to older than 100.

  Sample instructor Jenna Palmisano of Roselle gives a thumbs-up to people in the car for job well done after collecting their test samples last week at the DuPage County COVID-19 testing site in Wheaton. Mark Welsh/
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