Eastern political science professors Ryan Burge and Karen Swenson weigh in on Governor JB Pritzker’s latest change to the state’s indoor mask mandate.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced a plan Feb. 9 to lift the indoor mask mandate by Feb. 28 everywhere except where his federally mandated, privately mandated schools or other “vulnerable” locations if the current decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations continues.
Illinois is currently experiencing the largest decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic and the highest population rate of vaccinated citizens in the Midwest.
However, after Pritzker’s announcement, many began to speculate if Pritzker was making this change due to improving COVID-19 rates or if it was a political move to gain popularity for the public. next elections.
Ryan Burge, assistant professor and graduate studies coordinator, said the reason Pritzker’s plan to lift the indoor mask mandate is a combination of the upcoming election and improving COVID-19 numbers. .
“I think Governor Pritzker’s policy change was based both on politics and how conditions changed on the ground regarding omicron,” Burge said.
Burge’s first reason for Pritzker’s announcement stems from COVID-19 data.
“The data indicates that the omicron push is pretty much over now,” Burge said. “The number of cases is down 80% from its peak and continues to decline in many places.”
The second reason is the current public sentiment towards masks.
“People are just sick of wearing masks,” Burge said. “No matter how hard a government tries to get its citizens to do something, they can always refuse – and many of them do. And, from a political point of view, if a government wants its citizens to wear masks again, it must demonstrate that these are short-term measures to stop the spread of a virus.
The final reason Pritzker announced a lifting of the mask mandate.
“His re-election plays a role; I’m sure,” Burge said. “But, he doesn’t ‘do it alone’ about it. Several other Democratic governors have moved in the same direction in places like California and New York. It would be very difficult to explain politically why Illinois was the only state in the union with mask mandates when none of our neighbors do. I don’t think it will make a huge difference on Election Day, which won’t last more than eight months, but Pritzker will likely tout his handling of the pandemic as one of the reasons he should get a second term.
Karen Swenson, professor of political science for the pre-law program, agrees with her colleague that the COVID-19 numbers and the upcoming election affect Pritzker’s choice.
“I think it’s both,” Swenson said. “This is the year he is likely to be re-elected.”
Swenson explained how governors watch other governors to see what they are doing before making a decision.
“Also, in state politics, it’s common for governors to look to other states in the region and what other governors in their party are doing,” Swenson said. “Pritzker’s position follows both tendencies.”
Swenson went on to discuss Pritzker’s past motivations for the decisions.
“And remember our governor and our state was a leader in mask mandates and public accommodations closings early in the pandemic,” Swenson said. “I don’t think Pritzker is afraid to do what’s necessary even if it’s not politically popular.”
Madelyn Kidd can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]