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State lawmakers slash January legislative session due to COVID-19 surge

Legislators will meet for just one day in Springfield as Illinois sees its highest coronavirus caseloads of the pandemic.

State lawmakers meet in Springfield in May. Next week’s legislative session has been shortened due to a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.
State lawmakers meet in Springfield in May. Next week’s legislative session has been shortened due to a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.
AP file

An explosion in COVID-19 cases has prompted state lawmakers to cut short their first legislative sessions of 2022, leaders announced Thursday.

The Illinois General Assembly will meet on Jan. 5, but two other session days scheduled that week have been canceled and three days scheduled for the following week are also “likely to be canceled amid the ongoing global pandemic,” legislative leaders said in a statement.

More Illinoisans are contracting the coronavirus every day than ever before, with an average of almost 17,000 residents testing positive each day over the past week. And hospitals are treating the most COVID-19 patients they’ve seen since November 2020 when legislators also canceled their fall veto session.

“This pandemic is not over,” House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said in the statement. “We must take necessary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus, reduce the burden on our health care systems and keep each other as safe as possible. We know how important the people’s work is and we are committed to getting that work done in a safe way.”

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon called it “an effort to protect our colleagues, our staffs and everyone else who is part of a legislative session day,” and he urged “everyone to take advantage of the vaccines and booster shots available to protect themselves and those around them.”

In 2020, the pandemic wiped out most days of in-person legislative action in Springfield. Sessions have gone uninterrupted in 2021, with lawmakers convening most recently in late October.