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Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls for national face-covering requirements

Gov. J.B. Pritzker visits a mobile testing site at Coles Elementary School in Chicago on Wednesday. | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged federal lawmakers on Wednesday to adopt a nationwide face-covering requirement as the number of cases of COVID-19 increases in some states.

The governor took part in a U.S. House committee hearing about the response to COVID-19. He laid out several things he said the federal government could do moving forward, such as requiring face coverings nationwide.

“We instituted ours in Illinois on May 1, one of the first in the nation, and it aligns with one of our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate,” Pritzker said in his opening statement.

He also urged Congress to continue federal funding for the National Guard’s COVID-19 response, for more national testing and tracking and for a federal bailout for state and local governments to cover lost revenue from the pandemic. Illinois’ budget relies on $5 billion in federal funds that have yet to materialize.

Members of the committee asked Pritzker about Illinois’ policy regarding COVID-19 and nursing home transfers. He said there was never a state policy to transfer infected patients back to nursing homes, but there were policies requiring nursing home patients with COVID-19 to be isolated and kept separate from other residents.

“And many of them did,” Pritzker said. “I will say some of them didn’t do it right and we’re holding them accountable.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health didn’t immediately respond to questions regarding how many facilities had not followed the guidelines or what kind of consequences there would be. State officials have reported 3,856 deaths related to COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities in Illinois, with a total of 22,833 positive cases in such facilities.

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Pritzker also criticized the Trump administration for not implementing the Defense Production act early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pritzker said states were in bidding wars against each other for personal protective equipment.

“In the midst of the global pandemic, states were forced to play some sick hunger games game show to save the lives of people,” Pritzker said. “This is not a reality TV show. These are real things that are happening.”

U.S. President Donald Trump hosted 14 seasons of “The Apprentice,” a reality TV show, before he was elected in 2016.

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana, asked the governor to elaborate on how Illinois officials learned lessons about handling the pandemic.

“There’s an awful lot of learning that’s taken place from March until now, so yes I think we’ve created a path for someone in the future to follow,” Pritzker said.

“Thank you, and may I respectfully state that that’s exactly what our president has done in response to this incredible challenge that we’ve never faced before as a nation,” Higgins said.


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