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Gov. Pritzker unveils campaign to encourage face masks, considers fines for those who don’t wear one

File Photo – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the launch of a $5 million campaign to encourage Illinois residents to wear a face-covering in public with the slogan “it only works if you wear it.”

The campaign will include ads on TV, radio, billboards and social media with spending focused on the counties that have “the most work to do.”

Pritzker said the state plans to get reimbursed with federal COVID-19 aid funds to cover the cost of the campaign.

A total of 11 Illinois counties are currently under a warning status for rising COVID-19 metrics.

“Consistently, we have seen too many of these communities not wearing the most important tool that we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by individual action and that is face coverings,” Pritzker said during the news conference in Springfield.

He also said that it’s worth considering issuing citations to people who refuse to wear a mask.

“People who refuse to wear a mask, people who are entering public premises where they know they’re supposed to wear a mask and who have been reminded, and who aren’t. Those people certainly should be, you know, reminded again by police and ultimately, if they’re absolutely refusing in public, they’re putting other people at risk. So it’s worthy of considering fine at a local level,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker announced the mask mandate on May 1, the same day the state moved into Phase 2 of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan. It requires people to wear face masks in businesses open to the public and when social distancing isn’t possible.

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Also Monday, the governor noted what he said was an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases among young people.

The news conference came after an annual party dubbed the “White Trash Bash” in East Peoria, a boat party attended by around 500 people without masks. The party gained national attention and news coverage amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We have also seen clusters of cases associated with overcrowded restaurants and churches, big sports events including soccer, golf and softball tournaments, and an overall rise in cases among those in their late teens and in their twenties,” Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,298 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 10 additional confirmed deaths. As of Monday, the department had reported a total of 183,241 cases, including 7,526 deaths, statewide.

In the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 28,475 specimens for a total of 2,806,797 tests. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from July 27 to Aug. 2 was 4.0%, according to the department.

“If we continue on the track we’re on, we’ll need to look at bringing back some restrictions that we’ve seen over the last few months,” Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said.

“Nobody wants that. We haven’t seen enough people wearing face coverings and following the rule we put in place on May 1. If more people do their part by wearing a mask in public, we can move forward, not backward,” Nadeau said.


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