By: Brian R. Bare
At his press conference this afternoon, August 4, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced that masks will now be universally required for anyone in PreK-12 Illinois schools and day cares. Face coverings will be required for all indoor sports and recreational activities. Athletes and coaches will not be required to wear face masks for outdoor sports. He also noted that the state will provide COVID-19 test kits and masks for any schools that need them.
In response to questions about masking in schools, Governor Pritzker clearly stated that “This is a mandate across our PreK-12 schools.” He reiterated, “We have the legal authority to enforce this and we will, if necessary.” When asked about a school’s recourse when dealing with a parent who does not want their child to be masked, he stated that schools are responsible for keeping their school environment safe. He noted that schools can be held liable if someone filed a lawsuit, and that the State Board of Education could seek to revoke their recognition status, although he indicated that such revocation would probably be a last resort option. In addition to universal masking, he noted that individual school districts can also use other mitigation strategies. However, when asked about the possibility of a return to remote learning, Governor Pritzker stated, “That is not on the table.”
In addition to the universal mask mandate for schools, Governor Pritzker announced a similar mask requirement for all long-term care facilities in Illinois. Also, he announced that, effective October 4, 2021, Illinois will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all state employees at congregate facilities (such as prisons, veterans homes, and facilities for the developmentally disabled.) Governor Pritzker indicated that he had reached out to the employee unions and asked them to come to the table and negotiate on the implementation of the vaccine requirement. He also applauded private employers in Illinois who have already announced vaccine requirements for their employees, and specifically named Tyson Foods and Google.
We expect that the guidance from the State of Illinois, ISBE, and IDPH will continue to evolve over time. For those of our clients whose boards have already adopted the draft resolution that we prepared following the initial July 9 announcements, no further action is necessary. Although the resolution then referred to masking as a recommendation, it included clear directives to the administration to revise plans as the state and federal guidance changes. If you have not already adopted a resolution on fall reopening plans this summer, or if your board would prefer, a revised resolution could be prepared. Depending on timing, you may wish to wait until further guidance from ISBE and IDPH may be issued. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our attorneys with questions.