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School masks, state worker vaccinations required in Illinois

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Illinois’ governor says all students and staff members in schools will be required immediately

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday ordered face coverings for all school children from preschool through 12th grade to thwart the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus and the Democrat will require all state employees who work in highly populated facilities such as prisons to be vaccinated.

With the potentially deadly virus continuing to spread, worsened by the more virulent delta variant, Pritzker urged residents who have not been vaccinated to get the shots necessary to prevent the illness.

“Every time we think we know where this virus is headed, it changes, and it shifts…,” Pritzker said in Chicago. “I want to say this, specifically to young adults: Please do not think that the worst-case scenario cannot happen. It can. Get vaccinated.”

The required vaccination for state employees applies to those who work in prisons and juvenile detention facilities, veterans’ homes and state facilities for the mentally and developmentally disabled. Each must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4.

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Employers both private and public have begun requiring shots against the deadly virus — President Joe Biden is considering such a requirement for all federal employees — and the law appears to be on the side of the boss. Employers can make vaccination a condition of employment, experts say.

Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents most of the employees affected by the vaccination order, did not immediately comment.

The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Illinois Education Association, issued a statement indicating its agreement with the governor’s action.

“Let’s pull together and take care of one another. Vax up and mask up. We owe it to our students and we owe it to each other,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association. “We’re so thankful to have leadership in this state that won’t let the virus fester and grow. But, it us up to all of us to bring COVID-19 to its knees.”

Pritzker, who last week ordered that face coverings be worn by anyone entering a state building, also said Wednesday masks would be required in all long-term care facilities, including those privately owned.

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