(The Center Square) — While some say the science of COVID-19 led Illinois to lift its mask mandate in most places, including schools and daycares, others say the move has more to do with political science.
Two years ago, the administration of Governor JB Pritzker noted COVID-19 was not a threat to the general public. On Tuesday, Pritzker reflected on how quickly that has changed.
“Soon after, Illinois would become the second state in the nation to issue a stay-at-home order, an unprecedented action to resolve and an unprecedented unknown,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker’s stay-at-home order lasted ten weeks. This included closing schools for in-person instruction until last August. The governor has also issued executive orders limiting economic activity by setting varying degrees of capacity limits at certain businesses.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the damage caused by the governor’s unilateral orders over the past two years is wide-ranging, affecting businesses and beyond.
“Everything we’ve done to school children over the past two years is completely irrational,” Wilhour said at The Center Square on Tuesday. “We always knew where the risks were. It wasn’t there [for school children].”
As of last summer, most states across the country had not implemented COVID-19 mitigations like Illinois, which included mask mandates in schools.
On Friday morning, Pritzker said that while masks would no longer be needed in most indoor settings, he would look into how that was doing before making the decision to lift mask mandates in schools. He later reversed course, saying updated guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drove the decision.
Pritzker said Tuesday that when the pandemic becomes rampant, it was not his choice to make.
“I’ve always promised to listen to the experts and I’m not going to stop doing that now,” Pritzker said.
Wilhour said Pritzker’s flip-flop on Friday on school mask mandates shows there’s political science involved.
“I think there’s polling data that came out of a major national polling firm for the Biden administration that told Democrats that ‘hey, those parents, those students, those business owners, they are worried, they’re right to be concerned, and you better start siding with them because politics is backfiring on you on this and there’s going to be bloodshed at the polls in 2022,” said said Wilhour.
According to SFGate.coma poll presented to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month indicated that “57% of voters in competitive congressional precincts agree with the statement, ‘Democrats in Congress have gone too far in their response to the pandemic ‘, and 66% of self-defined ‘swing voters’ in competitive ridings agree with this statement.
Wilhour and other Republicans continued Tuesday to refuse to wear masks in the Illinois house, despite house rules requiring face coverings. Democrats voted to eject the group, as they have done repeatedly since members returned last month. Expelled members were allowed to participate remotely.
Pritzker on Tuesday thanked Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike for his service. Ezike is to resign of $178,200 a year as the state’s top doctor on March 14.