Pritzker takes on Trump, says prez needs to or­der Amer­i­cans to wear masks

In House com­mit­tee tes­ti­mony, Pritzker says Trump should or­der na­tion to wear face cov­er­ings, de­vise na­tional virus strat­egy

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY TINA SFONDELES, PO­LIT­I­CAL REPORTER ts­fonde­les@sun­times.com | @Ti­naS­fon

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an avid critic of Pres­i­dent Trump and his re­sponse to the COVID-19 pan­demic, called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day to re­quire face cov­er­ings and to de­vise a na­tional strat­egy to try to con­tain the virus that has killed more than 133,000 Amer­i­cans.

“We need a na­tional mask­ing man­date. We in­sti­tuted ours in Illi­nois on May 1, the first in the na­tion. And it aligns with our most sig­nif­i­cant down­ward shifts in our in­fec­tion rate,” Pritzker said in tes­ti­mony video streamed to the U.S. House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Se­cu­rity. “It’s not too late for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to make an im­pact. In fact, it’s more im­por­tant than ever.”

Pritzker is not the only governor to call for a na­tional mask man­date. New Jer­sey Gov. Phil Mur­phy also has done so. Trump does not wear a mask and has said it is a “vol­un­tary” mea­sure, de­spite health of­fi­cials urg­ing Amer­i­cans to wear face cov­er­ings to try to con­tain the virus’ spread.

For months, Pritzker has been a fre­quent critic of Trump and the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus, both in na­tional tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances and in local news brief­ings. As the pan­demic be­gan to take its toll on the world and the coun­try, the governor com­plained about Illi­nois hav­ing to se­cure its own tests and per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment to get ahead of the spread of the virus.

The Demo­cratic governor on Wed­nes­day said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must still cre­ate a co­or­di­nated na­tional strat­egy for con­tain­ment with more test­ing and con­tact trac­ing. Pritzker also asked for more help from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to make up for rev­enue losses dur­ing the pan­demic, and for clar­ity on in­sur­ance cov­er­age for COVID-19 test­ing.

Pritzker, too, asked for con­tin­ued Na­tional Guard help at fed­eral test­ing sites, “in the face of a pos­si­ble, maybe even likely, sec­ond wave.” The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion halted fed­eral fund­ing for two test­ings sites in Illi­nois last month, but the state is keep­ing the sites open with state fund­ing.

The governor said Illi­nois “fully ex­pected” the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, and the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices to “arm the states with in­for­ma­tion and equip­ment and test­ing ca­pa­bil­ity and per­son­nel.”

“Af­ter all, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had the ex­pe­ri­ence fight­ing H1N1, SARS and Ebola,” Pritzker said. “A global pan­demic re­quires a na­tional re­sponse. But that’s not what hap­pened.”

Pritzker said Illi­nois — which has lost 7,099 peo­ple to COVID-19 as of Wed­nes­day — made early de­ci­sions that helped to stem the virus, in­clud­ing coming up with a plan along with hospi­tal lead­ers, epi­demi­ol­o­gists and pub­lic health of­fi­cials. He also cited the state’s stay-at-home or­der, the sec­ond state in the na­tion to take that step, as well as the de­ci­sion to close nurs­ing homes to vis­i­tors.

“With­out in­ter­ven­tion, our health care sys­tem would be over­run, lead­ing to tens of thou­sands more deaths,” Pritzker said.

The governor said COVID-re­lated deaths in Illi­nois are down 85% from a high eight weeks ago, with cases down 71% from a high nine weeks ago. The num­ber of ICU hos­pi­tal­iza­tions also have dropped by more than 70% since early May, he said.

“WE NEED A NA­TIONAL MASK­ING MAN­DATE. WE IN­STI­TUTED OURS IN ILLI­NOIS ON MAY 1 ... AND IT ALIGNS WITH OUR MOST SIG­NIF­I­CANT DOWN­WARD SHIFTS IN OUR IN­FEC­TION RATE. IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR THE FED­ERAL GOV­ERN­MENT TO MAKE AN IM­PACT. IN FACT, IT’S MORE IM­POR­TANT THAN EVER.”

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER, in tes­ti­mony video streamed to the U.S. House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Se­cu­rity

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to med­i­cal per­son­nel on Wed­nes­day dur­ing a visit to a mo­bile COVID-19 test­ing sta­tion at Ed­ward Coles School.

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