Just a day after warning of “significantly greater mitigations” if COVID numbers didn’t begin to decline in the state of Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker will issue a new indoor mask mandate for state residents, as well as new rules regarding vaccinations and COVID testing for all public school teachers, a source with knowledge of the new mitigations tells NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern.
According to that source, Pritzker will make the announcement at a press conference Thursday.
The new indoor mask mandate, similar to mandates already handed down in Cook County and Chicago, will impact all state residents 2 years of age and older. Those residents will be required to wear facial coverings in indoor settings, regardless of COVID vaccination status.
In addition, Pritzker will announce a new mandate requiring teachers in kindergarten through college to either receive the coronavirus vaccine, or to submit to weekly COVID testing through an enhanced protocols program, the source tells NBC 5.
As of Wednesday, all 102 of Illinois’ counties are experiencing “high transmission” levels of COVID-19, meaning that the counties are either seeing 100 or more new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents each week, or are seeing positivity rates of greater than 10% on all COVID tests.
Under those parameters, residents in those counties are recommended to wear masks by the CDC, but Pritzker’s order will go one step further, requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
The decision is also driven by rapid increases in the number of patients requiring ICU beds while battling COVID. In Region 5, located in southern Illinois and comprised of 20 counties, just six of the region’s 86 ICU beds are currently available, up from just one available on Tuesday.
Officials say 22 beds of 171 are currently available in northwest Illinois’ Region 1, while 21 are avaialble in Region 3, which includes Springfield.
On Tuesday, Pritzker had warned of “significantly greater mitigations” if COVID metrics didn’t begin to decline across the state.
“We’re consistently looking at the menu of options that we may need to impose in order to bring down the numbers,” Pritzker said during a press conference Tuesday. “I will remind you that if we are not able to bring these numbers down, if hospitals continue to fill, if the hospital beds and ICUs get full like they are in Kentucky -that’s just next door to Illinois – if that happens, we’re going to have to impose significantly greater mitigations.”