SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Gov. JB Pritzker filed a notice on Monday morning to appeal a Sangamon County judge’s temporary restraining order that disrupted his mask mandate in schools.
During a press conference in Chicago, Pritzker singled out the judge who issued the Friday night ruling.
“Judge Raylene Grischow’s ruling is out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis in Illinois and across the nation,” Pritzker said, claiming her ruling “cultivates chaos.”
“I’ve asked Attorney General Kwame Raoul to seek to have the ruling overturned with all possible speed,” the governor said.
The Illinois State Board of Education and Department of Public Health also appealed the judge’s ruling, kicking off an appeal process many school administrators fear could take weeks to resolve.
“The judge has created a tremendous amount of confusion even in the way she wrote her decision,” Pritzker said.
Judge Grischow temporarily halted the statewide mask mandate and wrote in her ruling that local school districts were free to “govern themselves accordingly.”
Hundreds of school administrators scrambled to notify parents about how they would react to the judge’s ruling over the weekend. School administrators in Champaign, Urbana, and Decatur told parents they would continue to enforce the guidance from the CDC and IDPH. The school board in Charleston announced a special board meeting on Tuesday night to address possible changes to its COVID-19 rules. Springfield’s school district said it “encourages students and staff to continue to follow mitigations in order to keep students and staff same.”
The Shiloh Community Unit School District in rural Edgar County said it would go “mask optional,” and allow students to decide if they will wear a mask in class.
Danville schools notified parents on Sunday night that their school age children would have to attend virtual classes from home on Monday during a “remote adaptive pause” while officials figured out how to proceed.
“Masks work,” Pritzker said. “Poor legal reasoning should not take one of the most effective tools off the table.”
Pritzker’s repeated criticism of the judge represents a departure from political norms. Members of the executive branch typically avoid wandering into personal attacks against sitting judges.
This isn’t the first time Grischow faced political pressure from the bench. Last month, when she was considering the case, a flood of 80 emails came into her personal inbox over her lunch break. Grischow disclosed the nature of the emails to the court, and suggested many of the people who sent her emails were lobbying her to lift the mask mandate.
Tom DeVore, the attorney opposing the public health guidance who has often used social media to direct people to lodge complaints with public officials, suggested the judge should delete the emails. The Attorney General’s office asked her to enter them into the record.
The specific content of the emails was never disclosed to the public, but records show the court “turned them over to the US Marshal’s office to review for security reasons.”
Reporters asked Pritzker what school districts should do now that the court appeal is pending.
“You ought to err on the side of protecting everybody in the school and particularly all the people who interact with the school,” Pritzker says. “That was always the goal.”
Pritzker said he would monitor hospitalization data to determine when to lift the statewide mask mandate.
Illinois hospitals reported 7,380 COVID-19 infected patients in their beds on January 12th, 2022. The last available data published on February 3rd shows there were 3,135 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at the time, down more than half from the record peak one month ago, but still much higher than most of 2021. The last time hospitalizations were as high as they are today was in January of 2021.
“We’re watching very carefully,” Pritzker said. “I’m listening to the doctors about what numbers they believe are correct, and no doubt we are heading in the right direction.”