FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, 8-24-21

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an event in Chicago on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – With nearly 98% of seniors in Illinois having at least one COVID-19 vaccine, there’s still a mandate in place for health care workers, educators and college students in the state, but it has been delayed.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Aug. 26 that health care workers, educators from pre-K to college and college students must get vaccinated by Sept. 5. His modified order Friday that moved that date to Sept. 19.

“While hospitals and schools move forward in good faith, this extension ensures they are prepared to meet this requirement to better protect our most vulnerable residents and children who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated,” Pritzker said in a statement Friday.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the mandates are coercion to take a treatment some don’t want, despite the vaccine having been widely available for months.

“It has created quite a disturbance and I’m not really sure where that’s all going and I think the disturbance that’s been created is why there was a date pushed off for two weeks because of the pushback,” Halbrook told WMAY.

Pritzker’s office said the delayed implementation date was at the request of health and education groups and will allow them to set up the necessary procedures for regular testing of those that don’t get vaccinated.

The Illinois Education Association characterized the mandate as encouragement to get the vaccine as it also requires regular testing for those not getting the shot.

“We believe the governor’s executive order – which encourages all education employees from preschool through college to be vaccinated and if they can’t, or won’t, then to be tested weekly – will help keep schools open and all those who work and learn inside them safe,” Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said in a joint statement with the governor.

Pritzker has also mandated state employees that work in congregate settings like prisons get vaccinated by Oct. 1. The state’s largest public employee union AFSCME said in a letter to members that it is looking for parity with health care and education, including regular tests for those not getting the vaccine.

“Council 31’s position was developed in consultation with local union leaders from across the state,” the union said in a letter published on Capitol Fax. “It is not anti-mandate, as some in the media have implied, but against a rigid, punitive mandate that would result in the discharge of every employee who does not get vaccinated by early October.”

Halbrook said the mandates are a step too far.

“The people that are vaccinated, that want to be vaccinated, they are vaccinated,” Halbrook said. “And now there’s these forced measures, these measures of coercion to further the vaccine stuff.”

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