Pritzker lawsuit seeks face mask order for Illinois schools

Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 2:09 PM
Updated: Jul 22, 2020 9:53 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks.

The action filed late Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court by the state attorney general seeks a judge’s approval of Pritzker’s order that schoolchildren, teachers and staff wear coverings over mouths and noses among other measures to reduce the chance that the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus can spread.

“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a prepared statement.

It’s typical for the governor to be in court as a defendant seeking validation of a policy or action. In this instance, no lawsuit has been filed, but a public school district and two private academies have informed the Illinois State Board of Education that Pritzker no longer has authority under emergency rule-making to require face masks in schools and that they will be developing their own safety rules.

It was time to get ahead of the issue, Ann Spillane, Pritzker’s chief legal counsel, told The Associated Press.

“Students need to prepare, parents need to know what’s coming, administrators need guidelines. Confusion on these things leads to risk,” Spillane said. “We’re sending a signal that this issue is not up for debate. The governor doesn’t have an option.”

A lawyer representing Hutsonville Community Unit School District No. 1 in southeastern Illinois, Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville and Families of Faith Christian Academy in Channahon wrote letters in the last month to the state board explaining that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in a 1922 case that government cannot make rules “which merely have a tendency to prevent” the spread of infectious diseases, particularly if “arbitrary and unreasonable.”

Thomas DeVore of Greenville also noted that Pritzker has said there’s not enforcement for violators of the guidelines, which DeVore contends turns “rules” into “recommendations.” He did not return a message left at his office after hours Thursday.

With the surging spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Pritzker on March 13 ordered public schools closed — eventually for the rest of the term. Despite a leveling off of cases in Illinois, there are concerns here and, especially in other parts of the nation where case numbers are rising again, about reopening the classic community center, the school, in an age where people are urged to wear face masks, stay 6 feet apart, and step up the hygiene protocol dramatically.

Pritzker in June released of a set of guidelines for safe congregation in schools from kindergarten through college, but among others, the state’s two major teachers’ unions have continued worries about keeping congested classrooms, hallways and playgrounds safe.

With public health officials announcing 25 additional deaths Thursday among 1,257 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, the state has now lost 7,251 lives to virus-related complications. Nearly 160,000 have been infected; tens of thousands of those have recovered.

Dissidents who bristle at government telling them what to wear and how to act in public gained traction last spring when Republican Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, represented by DeVore, won an opaque victory in Clay County against Pritzker, arguing that his ability under state law to impose emergency rules ended after 30 days — on April 8.

Despite the fact that it only applies to Bailey, and the ruling precludes further challenge, supporters have taken up the charge. DeVore has notified the government on behalf of individuals, retail establishments, and now schools, that they don’t plan to comply.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1590342

Reported Deaths: 26979
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook60937610925
DuPage1031521352
Will865801083
Lake764741056
Kane65399842
Winnebago38682543
Madison37731569
St. Clair34758561
McHenry32773313
Peoria25738361
Champaign25601182
Sangamon24263266
McLean21611205
Tazewell19559326
Rock Island17631342
Kankakee16523233
Kendall15274105
LaSalle14349275
Macon14248233
Vermilion12908182
Adams12589147
DeKalb11542127
Williamson11206156
Whiteside7813176
Boone756681
Jackson756683
Coles7175112
Ogle705385
Grundy693181
Clinton676498
Franklin669694
Knox6528163
Marion6454135
Macoupin636597
Henry610272
Jefferson5981131
Effingham588980
Livingston564394
Woodford549791
Stephenson540089
Randolph522996
Monroe503299
Christian481980
Morgan479995
Fulton479069
Logan473573
Montgomery462876
Lee454956
Bureau423087
Perry411171
Saline399263
Iroquois391171
Fayette387756
McDonough352155
Jersey319753
Douglas303336
Shelby300343
Crawford298930
Lawrence294631
Union293846
Wayne267957
White261530
Richland256852
Hancock253434
Pike252256
Cass247728
Clark244138
Bond242224
Clay233347
Ford233056
Edgar229844
Carroll223937
Warren220456
Moultrie209331
Johnson208922
Washington204927
Jo Daviess203525
Greene199339
Mason196251
Wabash196115
Massac195144
De Witt192730
Piatt188814
Mercer187035
Cumberland174123
Menard155812
Jasper149518
Marshall133721
Hamilton127221
Brown10138
Pulaski97311
Schuyler9608
Edwards94815
Stark76027
Gallatin7285
Scott6895
Alexander66411
Calhoun6382
Henderson63114
Hardin55713
Putnam5414
Pope4725
Unassigned1582432
Out of IL80

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 926604

Reported Deaths: 15083
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1262201958
Lake626901087
Allen52772747
Hamilton43283445
St. Joseph41475584
Elkhart33129488
Vanderburgh29927439
Tippecanoe26589247
Johnson23267415
Hendricks21902340
Porter21473341
Clark17150224
Madison17065379
Vigo15815273
Monroe14298190
LaPorte14108237
Delaware13771219
Howard13635262
Kosciusko11232134
Hancock10637160
Warrick10523176
Bartholomew10341167
Floyd10200202
Wayne9690218
Grant8939196
Morgan8734158
Boone8299109
Dubois7596123
Henry7469128
Dearborn745187
Noble7294101
Marshall7237128
Cass7097117
Lawrence6862150
Shelby6457107
Jackson643981
Gibson6036106
Harrison595585
Huntington591891
Montgomery5706102
DeKalb563591
Knox537599
Miami531983
Clinton527164
Putnam525367
Whitley516251
Steuben486367
Wabash477492
Jasper471961
Jefferson461991
Ripley444175
Adams439365
Daviess4064106
Scott394963
White386257
Clay382356
Greene380189
Wells379683
Decatur379595
Fayette367176
Posey354941
Jennings346356
Washington325847
LaGrange315774
Spencer313034
Fountain309753
Randolph305487
Sullivan299447
Owen279161
Starke272761
Orange272659
Fulton268851
Jay250634
Perry247451
Carroll241127
Franklin233637
Vermillion229750
Rush228930
Parke215220
Tipton206754
Pike202538
Blackford165634
Pulaski158751
Crawford142818
Newton140742
Benton139816
Brown132646
Martin126916
Switzerland123510
Warren113416
Union93511
Ohio77211
Unassigned0468