Illinois Court Dismisses Pritzker Appeal of Mask Mandate Block

Illinois Court Dimisses Pritzker Appeal of Mask Mandate Block

An Illinois appellate court dismissed Governor J.B. Pritzker’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling against his mask mandate in schools, calling the request “moot” after a legislative committee suspended the requirement’s renewal.

On Thursday, the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court rejected the appeal, noting that the state’s department of public health on Feb. 14 had renewed the emergency rules, originally enacted in September 2021, but that a legislative committee had then suspended that renewal this week. 

“Thus, none of the rules found by the circuit court to be null and void are currently in effect,” the court wrote in its ruling late Thursday. “Accordingly, for the following reasons, we dismiss defendant’s appeal because the expiration of the emergency rules renders this appeal moot.”

The Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan and bicameral group, voted on Tuesday against extending Pritzker’s mask mandate for schools as the state awaited guidance from the appellate court.

Review Request 

“The governor is disappointed in the appellate court’s decision and concerned for the health of those in schools -- particularly vulnerable children and adults -- and the ability to continue in-person learning,” an emailed statement from Pritzker’s office said. 

Pritzker’s administration is working with the attorney general to request an expedited review of the decision from the Illinois Supreme Court and is encouraging people to continue to wear masks in the meantime, according to the statement. 

The dismissal comes after Sangamon County Judge Raylene DeWitte Grischow on Feb. 4 ruled in favor of a group of parents from across the state who sued over the masking requirement. Grischow issued a temporary restraining order, leaving school officials grappling with how to implement or ease masking policies. Pritzker, a Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, appealed the decision.

The language of the temporary restraining order “in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the IDPH in creating provisions addressing Covid-19,” according to the appellate court’s ruling, referring to the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Thus, it does not appear the school districts are temporarily restrained from acting by the court’s TRO.”

‘Safety Measures’

Chicago Public Schools in an emailed statement said it’s “pleased” that the appellate court’s decision confirms districts aren’t prohibited from independently requiring masks and other measures. 

“Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandated universal masking,” the district said. “These safety measures are what have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year.

Governors are dropping mask mandates as vaccination rates continue to rise and the omicron wave is ebbing. New Jersey and Connecticut have said they plan to drop mask mandates for schools and daycare centers. California plans to keep its school-mask mandate in place for now but will reassess on Feb. 28. 

Illinois is planning to partially lift its indoor mask mandate on Feb. 28 amid falling cases of coronavirus. That eased requirement doesn’t apply to schools, though Pritzker has said changes to school rules could come in the following weeks. 

Weekly Covid-19 cases have declined and the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from last week was 4.5%, compared to more than 15% in the week ended Jan. 6, according to the state health department.

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