Pritzker says Trump should order nation to wear masks: ‘It’s not too late for the federal government to make an impact’

Pritzker is not the only governor to call for a national mask mandate. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has also 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.

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

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

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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 has also 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.

 Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers testimony by video stream to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers testimony by video stream to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.

Screen image.

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.

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

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to a community resident about the ongoing effort of curbing COVID-19 spread during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School on Wednesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker puts away his face mask before delivering his daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in April of 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker puts away his face mask before delivering his daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in April.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file.

“Without intervention, our healthcare 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 have also dropped by more than 70% since early May, he said.

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