Pritzker_.JB .

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

Gov. JB Pritzker was joined by several medical experts Sunday afternoon to urge Illinoisans to mask up and help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

At a news conference at Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, Pritzker called mask requirements and physical distancing during a pandemic “common sense,” noting the majority of Americans support a mask mandate, and that health professionals with whom he has spoken all count masking and distancing among the most effective ways to slow the virus’s spread.

“In the last few months, research has evolved from the early days of the coronavirus, when it was shown that wearing masks protected others you’re with,” Pritzker said. “Now, study after study after study has shown us that if you wear a mask, it protects you too.”

Pritzker said the new emergency rules issued last week requiring businesses and schools to enforce mandatory face mask rules or face potential fines protects the public and treats businesses fairly.

“But we’re not doing this only because the medical professionals and the experts are telling us it’s necessary, or because it’s what the public is demanding,” Pritzker said. “We’re also doing this for the businesses that are following the rules while their competitors flout them. We’re doing this for the people who have to work in the stores, where their bosses won’t enforce public health rules, thereby putting their lives and health at risk. We’re doing this to reduce or even eliminate community spread so that if parents want their kids to go back to school, they’ll have the best chance of preserving the option of in-person learning this fall.”

Pritzker issued a mask mandate May 1 for people over the age of 2 in most public settings. The new rules set out a three-step process that gives businesses two chances to comply before they’re hit with a fine. On Sunday, Pritzker called on legislators to support the rule.

“Imagine if employees didn’t wash their hands or cooks could stick their bare fingers into your food and the owner said simply, ‘Hey, no big deal,’” Pritzker said. “Imagine if someone could walk into a restaurant, light a cigarette, blow smoke in your face, and all the smoker had to say is, ‘Well, it’s my choice.’”

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike spoke Sunday about the effectiveness of masks in helping to reduce the spread of the virus, noting the increase in cases across the state.

“We’ve talked for months about masking. Do I wish we knew even earlier? Of course I do,” Ezike said. “Can we know all the properties of a new virus the first time we see it? Most unfortunately, we cannot. But as the saying goes, when you know better, you do better.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Sunday reported 1,382 new cases and eight confirmed deaths, bringing the statewide totals to 194,080 cases and 7,636 deaths since the pandemic began. By Sunday, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. hit 5 million, the most of any country.

“Wear your face covering, along with the distancing, along with the hand washing,” Ezike said. “It’s such a small price to pay to get our big prize.”

Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of infection prevention and control at University of Chicago Medicine, similarly said wearing a mask is one of the easiest steps toward prevention.

“This pandemic has presented all kinds of difficulties and challenges,” Landon said. “Life-altering uncertainty has been introduced into our economy, our health, our daily lives. Masks, on the other hand, are not that complicated.”

Landon acknowledged “COVID fatigue” but said wearing masks could help avoid another stay-at-home order.

“We don’t have to choose between a stay-at-home order or giving in to the virus,” Landon said. “Masks and distance should be something we can all agree on. But we all need to do that all the time.”

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(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune

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