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State day care workers get vaccine mandate to protect ‘babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine’

The mandate comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the lowest number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in nearly three months and a continued possible flattening of the overall caseload.

Day care employees motion for cars to halt while walking a trail of toddlers across a North Side street in 2007.
Day care employees motion for cars to halt while walking a trail of toddlers across a North Side street in 2007.
John J. Kim/Sun-Times file

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday issued an executive order mandating day care staff at state-run facilities get the COVID-19 vaccine by early December or submit to weekly testing.

In a statement, Pritzker said vaccines save lives “for the people who receive them and make the community safer for the people who can’t — including the babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine.”

“By extending vaccine-or-test requirements to those who work at licensed day care centers, we are adding another level of protection for our youngest residents and preventing outbreaks in day care centers as more and more parents return to work,” the governor said.

The order will affect more than 55,000 staff members at licensed day care centers statewide. Those facilities are under the purview of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Those staffers will be required to get their first shot by Dec. 3 and their second dose by Jan. 3, 2022, if they require one.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated by Dec. 3 — as well as those who are unable, or unwilling, to get the shot — will be required to get tested for the deadly virus at least once a week or until they’re fully vaccinated.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference in August.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference in August.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

But a group of Republican state legislators contend the mandate will lead to fewer day care workers available to watch Illinois children.

State Sens. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro; Sue Rezin, R-Morris; Sally Turner, R-Beason; and Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said in a joint statement Pritzker’s mandate “has the potential to exacerbate an already growing child care crisis in our state.”

“The reality is the most recent mandate is an attack on working mothers as they resume a more normal work schedule,” they wrote. “It’s a shortsighted act that will diminish the already limited and sparse availability of child care to families in Illinois.”

The mandate comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the lowest number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in nearly three months and a continued possible flattening of the overall caseload.

The department reported 15,131 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus and 183 deaths since last Friday.

That breaks down to about 2,162 cases per day over the past week and 26 deaths. The latest weekly caseload reflects a 3.6% dip from the 15,669 new cases the state’s public health department reported last week. The weekly death toll is just one less than the previous week’s figure.

But hospitalizations, which typically lag behind infections, showed a sharper drop. As of Thursday night, 1,277 residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state. That’s the lowest number of occupied beds since Aug. 5.

Roseland Community Hospital staffers talk to a Chicago Fire Department EMT in the emergency department last year.
Roseland Community Hospital staffers talk to a Chicago Fire Department EMT in the emergency department last year.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The seven-day average statewide case positivity rate held steady at 2%.

More than 69% of state residents have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 54% of Illinoisans are fully vaccinated.

Pritzker’s Friday order is the latest mandating state workers be vaccinated or be tested for the coronavirus.

In August, the governor announced vaccine requirements for all teachers in preschool through 12th grade and staff, higher education personnel and students, healthcare workers and others in congregate settings to slow the spread of the virus.

On Thursday, over 130 municipal workers — including members of the Chicago Fire Department — filed suit, claiming the vaccination mandates imposed by the city and state are unconstitutional.