(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker must decide whether or not to implement more restrictions as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to climb, but on Tuesday the governor said he hoped masks and vaccines prevent the need for additional restrictions or shutdowns.
The Illinois Department of Health reported 3,892 new infections over the last three days and the state has seen nearly 1,300 new cases each week. With the number of cases climbing, some are concerned about what steps public health officials could take next to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
The next step could add restrictions that could involve masking in public as well as mandatory vaccines for public employees. New York and California have both recently implemented new restrictions involving required vaccinations or weekly testing for public employees.
“Vaccines have proven to be the single most effective way to prevent serious illness and death, and he encourages all eligible Illinoisans to get vaccinated,” Emily Bittner, a governor’s office spokeswoman, said Monday in a statement. “As private hospitals and employers move to mandate vaccination for their employees, the administration is also reviewing its options for mandating vaccines, particularly for state employees who work in congregate or health care settings.”
Pritzker, at an unrelated event in Chicago on Tuesday, said public health officials are looking into mitigations that involve masking and vaccinations.
“There are mitigations, what we are trying to do is to look at masks and the most important thing you can do is still get vaccinated,” Pritzker said when asked about possible shutdowns.
The governor also reminded the people of Illinois that this pandemic is not over.
“This pandemic is not over, it’s not over,” Pritzker said. “I know many people wish that it was but it is not, and we know that if people remain unvaccinated there is a greater possibility that there will be a variant.”
State Rep. Adam Niemerg said that the reinforcement of restrictions in the state would be a step in the wrong direction.
“I believe it’s a step in the wrong direction, I think it is further authoritarian power by the governor,” he said. “It is him trying to further his political agenda and the people of Illinois are fed up with it.”
Illinois entered Phase 5 of Pritzker’s re-opening plan back in June.