(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said those who don’t want to wear a mask are the enemy in the fight against COVID-19, a comment that a parent who is organizing a march against mask mandates for school children said is offensive.
The latest daily report for the existence of COVID-19 in Illinois had nearly 1,600 new positive cases. The state’s positivity rate ticked up a tenth of a percent to 3.2 percent over the past seven days.
Pritzker said if the positivity rate increases, like in the Metro East area region of his COVID-19 management plan where the positivity rate is around 7 percent, and if local officials don’t get a hold of it before the seven-day rolling average exceeds 8 percent, he threatened state action.
“There are lots of mitigations that we put forward last week that include things like reducing or eliminating capacity indoors in bars across the state,” Pritzker said. “It includes things like questions about adult and youth sports leagues that are ongoing this summer and what we’ve seen and whether we need to cut back on that.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike repeated guidance the state has had in place for months, including wearing a mask. She equated face-covering requirements to banning smoking in public places or wearing a seat belt.
“Not wearing face coverings, not social distancing is what will take us back to the era we were just a few short months ago where we were reporting hundreds of deaths every single day,” she said.
Illinois’ peak daily deaths reported by public health officials was 191 back on May 13. There were 23 deaths attributed to the disease reported Wednesday.
In a recent public appearance, the governor said anyone who enters a school and is medically able to must wear a mask. When reinforcing his directive for a face covering Wednesday, the governor went even further.
“The enemy is not your mask,” Pritzker said. “If you’re not wearing your mask in public you’re endangering everyone around you, so the enemy is you.”
Michael Rebresh is the father of three and a co-organizer of the Million Unmasked March in Springfield this Saturday to oppose mask mandates for school-aged kids. He said he was “patently offended” by the governor’s comment, which he said could open people up to unwarranted attacks.
“My 8-year-old son who can’t wear a mask for more than 30 minutes inside the grocery store, that means that while we’re walking down the bread aisle he’s suddenly become an enemy,” Rebresh said.
Rebresh said he’s not opposed to mask-wearing. He’s opposed to the mandates.
“We’re against the guidelines that were issued by the Illinois State Board of Education by way of Gov. Pritzker forces our children to have to wear masks in school for five to eight hours a day,” he said.