Issues & Insights

Illinois Legislature Finally Revokes Gov. Pritzker’s School Mask Mandate 

After more than two long years of school mask mandates, Illinois students are finally free to attend school without wearing a face mask for eight hours a day, five days per week.

On Feb. 15, the Illinois Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted to suspend Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s public and private school mask mandate, pending the outcome of an appellate court case on the matter.

According to Illinois Senate Deputy Leader Sue Rezin, a Republican representing Morris, southwest of Chicago, “Today, the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules made it clear that we would not accept the governor’s attempts to go above a court ruling made by a co-equal branch of government. Instead of allowing our judicial system to work through its process, the governor tried to double down on his unilateral approach to COVID-19 mitigations. This move was both bad government and dangerous to the rule of law as it ignored the court’s ruling on due process.”

Rezin continued, “In his quest for power and control, Pritzker and his administration was willing to further the chaos and confusion for schools throughout the state. With this bipartisan vote, I hope the governor finally recognizes that his go-it-alone tactic is not in the best interest of our state or its people.”

Rezin makes very strong points concerning the legality of Pritzker’s decision, but that is only half of the story.

Aside from the fact that Pritzker lacks the authority to issue statewide school mask mandates, we should also keep in mind that school mask mandates do more harm than good.

First and foremost, COVID-19 poses little threat to young people. As of this writing, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), 663 Americans ages 5 to 18 have died from COVID-19.

Although every single one of those deaths is a tragedy, we must keep it in context. During this same span, many more young Americans have died from a variety of other causes, including influenza.

Second, young people are unlikely to transmit COVID-19. Per the CDC, “Findings from several studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 transmission among students is relatively rare … Several studies have also concluded that students are not the primary sources of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 among adults in school setting.”

Third, according to several studies, facemasks barely reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

Fourth, young people wearing facemasks for eight hours per day, five days per week is hazardous to their physical health.

According to a study by the American Medical Association (AMA), “Most of the complaints reported by children can be understood as consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in inhaled air. This is because of the dead-space volume of the masks, which collects exhaled carbon dioxide quickly after a short time. This carbon dioxide mixes with fresh air and elevates the carbon dioxide content of inhaled air under the mask, and this was more pronounced in this study for younger children.”

This led the study’s authors to conclude, “Many governments have made nose and mouth covering or face masks compulsory for schoolchildren. The evidence base for this is weak. We suggest that decision-makers weigh the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurements.”

Fifth, facemasks are harmful to young people’s social development and mental health. For young students, masking prevents them from learning how to interpret facial expressions, make it more difficult to learn how to read, and how to pronounce words.

We also know that facemasks impede socialization at school, which has led to unseen levels of depression, suicide, and drug overdoses among America’s youth over the past two years.

Overall, the science could not be clearer: Young people are at near-zero risk of dying from COVID-19. Young people are not likely to transmit COVID-19. Facemasks do not prevent the spread of COVID-19. Facemasks do present a variety of problems for students of all ages. And, most importantly, forcing students to wear masks for eight hours per day, five days per week, inhibits the learning process.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.orgis senior editor at The Heartland Institute.

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