Pritzker calls for national mask mandate during House committee testimony

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker called on the federal government to require Americans wear face coverings during virtual appearance before Congress Wednesday. 

“This might be the most important thing we can do to save lives. We need a national masking mandate,” Pritzker said. “We instituted ours in Illinois on May 1st — first in the nation — and it aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate.”

At the time of his testimony, Pritzker’s administration boasted some of the best public health marks in the nation on slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor not only weighed in on the simmering political debate about masks, but also pushed for a national containment strategy. Pritzker wants additional federal financial assistance, clarity on insurance coverage for COVID testing and emergency funding for the National Guard through next year.

COVID-19 has already killed 133,000 Americans, about 7,000 of them Illinoisans.  As he routinely does, Pritzker unloaded on the Trump administration’s response.

“We fully expected the federal government, home of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services would arm the state with information, equipment, testing capability and personnel,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker also accused the White House of breaking promises on testing and delivering personal protective equipment.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, states were forced to play some sort of sick Hunger Games gameshow to save lives of our people,” Pritzker said. “There was no national plan to acquire PPE or testing supplies and as a result people died.”

Pritzker also urged the Trump administration to take steps to bolster insurance for testing and federal funding for state and local governments.

“The federal administration also needs to provide clarity on insurance coverage or COVID-19 testing,” he said. “Testing is not a one-off tactic. We need regular testing across our population, and that means people need to know that their insurance will cover their testing, every time.”

Pritzker and President Trump have repeatedly clashed over the coronavirus response. Back in April, President Trump told reporters Pritzker is always complaining.

Pritzker also described the impact COVID-19 could have on local governments after an economic recession resulted in severe losses in local and state tax revenues. He told members of Congress, “without help, there will be massive layoffs of public servants, teachers and firefighters.”

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