CHICAGO (AP) — All licensed day care workers in Illinois must receive COVID-19 vaccine shots by early January or undergo weekly testing for the virus under an order issued Friday by. Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The mandate applies to more than 55,000 day care staff at nearly 2,900 day care centers, Pritzker's office said.
"Vaccinations offer life-saving protection for the people who receive them and make the community safer for the people who can't – including the babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine," the Democratic governor said in a statement. "By extending vaccine-or-test requirements to those who work at licensed day care centers, we are adding another level of protection for our youngest residents and preventing outbreaks in daycare centers as more and more parents return to work."
Day care staff must get either the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Dec. 3, and the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine by Jan. 3, 2022.
Any day care staff who aren't fully vaccinated by Dec. 3 must undergo weekly COVID testing until they are fully vaccinated.
"For continued, ongoing protection of our youth not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, this Executive Order is the best way to protect the lives of thousands of Illinoisans," Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "Scientific and medical experts have reviewed the data and found the COVID-19 vaccine will avoid serious illness, hospitalization, and even death."
Illinois' weekly COVID case count has dropped for seven weeks in a row. The state is averaging 2,162 new cases per day over the past week, about a 50% drop from seven weeks ago, when the state was averaging 4,331 new cases per day.