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COVID-19 roundup

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* Mark Maxwell

All hospitals and health care facilities in Illinois must begin keeping records that monitor vaccination status and Coronavirus test results for all of their staff, according to a new emergency rule issued by the state on Friday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health quietly filed the emergency rules with the Secretary of State’s office at the close of the first week under Governor Pritzker’s new vaccine mandate for health care workers. Pritzker’s mandate would require all workers at health care facilities and schools to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. The new reporting and record-keeping rules apply to hospitals, assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, sheltered care facilities, veterans homes, and a variety of other health care facilities licensed with the state, and go into effect immediately.

“Each establishment shall maintain a record of fully vaccinated staff, unvaccinated staff, and weekly testing,” the rules say, though they offer no specific instructions on how facilities should report that information to the state.

“The emergency rule is silent on how they are going to collect,” Danny Chun with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said in a phone call on Monday. “You can’t just turn on a light switch and start a new reporting system ‘effective immediately.’”

The new emergency rules don’t appear to allow any room for unvaccinated health care workers to decline a Coronavirus test.

“Staff who are not fully vaccinated may be permitted to enter or work at the establishment while they are waiting to receive the results of their weekly test,” the rules say. Otherwise, the state rules mandate that any workers who refuse the vaccine for religious or medical reasons “shall undergo the testing requirements.”

The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act says, “It is the public policy of the State of Illinois to respect and protect the right of conscience of all persons who refuse to obtain, receive or accept…health care services and medical care…and to prohibit all forms of discrimination, disqualification, coercion, disability or imposition of liability upon such persons or entities by reason of their refusing to act contrary to their conscience or conscientious convictions in providing, paying for, or refusing to obtain, receive, accept, deliver, pay for, or arrange for the payment of health care services and medical care.”

* Getting slightly better…

Also, 65.92 percent of eligible Illinois voters are now fully vaccinated.

* Daily Herald

A Kane County judge has denied a request for a temporary restraining order in a case filed by four employees from St. Charles Unit District 303 and Geneva Unit District 304 who are challenging COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements.

District 303 teachers Nicole Cournaya and Jeffrey Otterby; a District 303 administrative assistant, Christine White; and a District 304 bus driver instructor, Terry Todd, are seeking an injunction. They want a judge to prevent their employers from enforcing an order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker banning school workers from buildings if they are unvaccinated against COVID-19 and refuse to be tested weekly.

* Daily Herald

Park Ridge parents who were forced to pull their three children from school because the kids hadn’t quarantined after a trip abroad are suing over the matter.

Lucas and Daniela Fuksa filed a petition for relief and for an injunction against Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Superintendent Eric Olson on Monday in Cook County circuit court. […]

“The district and Defendant Olson have infringed upon the lawful right of the Children and their Parents to be free to choose for themselves what health and safety measures they feel are appropriate for the Children,” the petition states.

* Speaking of lawsuits, Tom DeVore’s Facebook page is now visible again. Videos are not available, however, unless maybe if you’re one of his FB friends. Remember that live video urging his followers to “Bring this state to its knees”? This is what happens when you click on the link

* Good points…

As COVID rights lawyer Tom DeVore shuts down his Facebook account because he, “needs a break” from all the messages, my…

Posted by Marc Ayers on Friday, September 24, 2021

* Another good point…


More than a dozen Illinois schools and districts are still not requiring face coverings, even though they risk losing funding and state recognition. […]

Four are public school districts and nine are private schools. […]

The public districts are all in or near Central Illinois–Nauvoo-Colusa CUSD 325, Cowden-Herrick CUSD 3A, Beecher City CUSD 20, and Hutsonville CUSD 1. […]

The [Beecher City] school board voted to hire attorney Tom DeVore and the Silver Lake Group to represent them on any legal issues regarding the mask mandate, but it’s unclear if any lawsuits have been filed.

* More…

* Biden receives coronavirus booster shot on camera

* Heavy drinking on the rise amid pandemic-related stress, new survey reveals

* FBI: Killings soared nearly 30 percent in 2020, with more slayings caused by guns

* Chicago Public Schools Enrollment Nosedives Again: Chicago Public Schools enrollment is down by at least 10,000 students this fall. It has dropped by more than 24,000 since the pandemic began.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

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Monday, Sep 27, 2021

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Davis quietly holds fundraiser with Speaker Pelosi

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* This is the only notice I received that Davis and Pelosi were doing a thing together yesterday…

Pat Dowell Candidate for Secretary of State Sunday Schedule includes 47th Ward Kickball and House Speaker Pelosi & Congressman Davis […]

4;00 pm Pat Dowell will attend with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Congressman Danny K Davis a reception at The Chicago South Loop Hotel 11 West 26th Street, Chicago, Illinois

I’m told that Speaker Pelosi leaves it up to members to publicize joint events like that. Davis is a notoriously poor fundraiser, despite serving on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. He had less than $300K in his account at the end of June, for instance. So, you’d think he’d want to try and boost attendance. Nope. We’ll see how much cash the soiree brought in, but here’s Politico with the only publicity the event received

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing an extraordinarily busy week in Congress, made a trip to Illinois on Sunday to champion Rep. Danny Davis’ re-election campaign — and voice her support for state lawmakers as they embark on drawing congressional maps.

“She gave a real message of party unity,” Rep. Kam Buckner, chair of the Illinois House Black Caucus, told Playbook. “She was very congratulatory of the work we’ve done here in Illinois and she was staunchly supportive of Congressman Davis and the status and stature he holds in the House. She said we need to send him back because these next two years are going to be pivotal.”

Davis, the longtime rep of the 7th Congressional District, has been targeted by the Justice Democrats who are ostensibly working to replace centrist Dems with liberal candidates. The organization is backing activist Kina Collins, who lost to Davis by 46 points last year in a four-way primary.

It’s an unusual fight for Justice Democrats to pick. They helped oust Dan Lipinski last year, one of the last Democrats in Congress opposed to abortion rights. But Davis is a progressive in his own right who most recently was a co-sponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Davis also voted for same-sex marriage in 2015 and against the Iraq War in 2002. And he co-sponsored the Green New Deal bill.

Pelosi’s visit to Chicago indicates Democrats are taking the challenge to Davis seriously, who she said was an important player in Congress as chairman of a House Ways and Means subcommittee and “a partner” in Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

Davis just turned 80 and has been in Congress for 24 years. He’s an institution, but Justice Democrats clearly have their sites set on him.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Rules for thee…

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* Cook County press release

Aug. 20, 2021 – The Cook County Department of Public Health today announced that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask indoors, beginning on Monday, Aug. 23. The order (below) requires that all people above age two who can medically tolerate a mask to wear one in multi-unit residential buildings and public places, such as restaurants, movie theaters, retail establishments, fitness clubs, and on public transportation.

“We are in a dangerous period, with the Delta variant surging, during which we must return to previous remediation measures,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Co-Lead and Senior Medical Officer of Cook County Department of Public Health. “We have no choice but to mandate that people wear masks indoors to help contain this spread of the virus.”

* There was a vaccine/testing requirement to attend the recent Cook County Democratic Party fundraiser, but the local and state masking requirements don’t differentiate…

The Cook County Democratic Party event tonight was a lot of fun! Having so many friends in one room was awesome! So great to be with everyone!

Posted by Jim Gleffe for Judge on Thursday, September 23, 2021

More pics are here. Not exactly a sea of compliance.

Also, Gov. Pritzker was there. I’m so old I remember a time in August when he skipped the state county party chairs’ brunch because it was indoors.

…Adding… Maskless indoors with unvaccinated kids…

…Adding… The above pic is from the 2018 campaign. But still. This is a self-own.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Today’s quotable

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* Politico

President Joe Biden has been sending a steady stream of emissaries to Illinois in person and virtually to showcase efforts to address climate change, education policies and child care initiatives. And Biden himself will be in Illinois Wednesday highlighting Covid-19 mandates that work.

“I think there is a certain part of the Biden administration that looks at Illinois and says ‘Here are a lot of things we’d like to accomplish that are getting done at the state level and they’re popular and successful.’ So it’s a good place to go and point out that the pieces of our agenda that the White House is trying to get passed actually work,” Anne Caprara, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s chief of staff, told Playbook.


- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Remap roundup

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* Background is here if you need it. AP

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed off on new electoral maps the Legislature will use for the next decade, despite concerns from certain groups, including some Black and Latino voters, that they weren’t able to weigh in and wouldn’t be fairly represented.

It was the second time Pritzker approved maps drawn up by his fellow Democrats despite promising as a candidate in 2018 that he would veto any made by politicians. He also signed an earlier version that Democrats approved in May but that critics said were flawed because they were based on population estimates. Democrats redrew them last month based on newly released census data and approved them along a straight party-line vote during a one-day special session Aug. 31.

“Gov. Pritzker’s signing of the legislative maps sends a clear picture of the severity of his ‘retrograde amnesia’ and efforts to deceive Illinois citizens,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said in a statement Friday. “The governor now joins the multitude of Democratic legislators who lied to voters by campaigning for and promising ‘fair maps.’”

Republicans and a Latino civil rights group, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have lawsuits pending in federal court in Chicago that seek to block the new maps from being used in elections. Lawyers for MALDEF say the maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act because they created fewer districts where Latinos of voting age make up a majority, despite Latinos making up a greater percentage of the state’s population than they did a decade ago.

* Sun-Times

But the Democratic governor insisted the maps drawn up by his party “align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will help ensure Illinois’ diversity is reflected in the halls of government.” […]

Pritzker’s office said the new state House and Senate district maps “reflect Illinois’ diversity and preserve minority representation” because they’re “crafted in a way that preserves clusters of minority voters if they are of size or cohesion to exert collective electoral power.” […]

But leaders at the anti-corruption group CHANGE Illinois called the Democrats’ new maps “utterly undemocratic,” saying they “steal representation from Latino, Black and other Illinoisans who have repeatedly pleaded for equitable representation.”

“Many major groups agree the new maps reduce the numbers of majority Black voting age population districts and majority Latino voting age population districts,” a statement from CHANGE Illinois reads.

* Capitol News Illinois

Republican leaders, as well as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, quickly filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago arguing that they were unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from survey data rather than official census numbers.

When the official numbers finally came out in mid-August, they did in fact show that population variances between districts were far outside what is allowed under U.S. constitutional law, prompting Democratic leaders to call a special session to adjust the new maps.

Republicans argue, however, that those maps were passed well after the state constitution’s June 30 deadline and, therefore, the task should be given to a bipartisan commission, a process in which Republicans would have a 50-50 chance of gaining a partisan advantage.

That decision will ultimately be up to the courts.

* Leader McConchie probably had the best quote of all last week

Republican state legislative leaders following the bill signing on Friday reiterated their criticism of Pritzker for failing to follow his original commitment to veto partisan-drawn maps.

“The governor has now twice chosen to actively betray the people he said he was elected to protect. This choice again proves he is more concerned with protecting the political elite than the people of Illinois,” Senate GOP leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Pritzker appears to reach the limits of his executive powers

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

After well over a year of successfully fending off every legal challenge to his executive powers during the pandemic, it now appears that Gov. J.B. Pritzker might have reached the limits of his authority.

The brick wall is Illinois’ decades-old Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which originally was designed to protect doctors and other health care workers from any repercussions if they refused to participate in abortions or other medical procedures/treatments they opposed.

“The biggest source of frustration and the biggest challenge right now related to the vaccine [mandate] issue is the Health Care Right of Conscience Act and how to manage that in this environment,” Tom Bertrand, the executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, told me.

The statute is so broadly written that it’s being seized upon by folks who are attempting to evade the state’s vaccination/testing mandates.

Statute excerpt: “It shall be unlawful for any public official, guardian, agency, institution or entity to deny any form of aid, assistance or benefits or to condition the reception in any way of any form of aid, assistance or benefits, or in any other manner to coerce, disqualify or discriminate against any person, otherwise entitled to such aid, assistance or benefits, because that person refuses to obtain, receive, accept, perform, assist, counsel, suggest, recommend, refer or participate in any way in any form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience.”

“Conscience” is defined as “a sincerely held set of moral convictions arising from belief in and relation to God, or which, though not so derived, arises from a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by God among adherents to religious faiths.” Pretty darned broad. Democrats wouldn’t ever pass that bill today, considering the climate.

The law’s definition of “health care” includes the word “testing.” And Nauvoo-Colusa School District teachers who’ve refused vaccines have convinced the school board to exempt them from the weekly mandatory testing opt-out, citing the HCRCA. The school system already is under Illinois State Board of Education probation for not enforcing the state mask mandate. The school is in Hancock County, which has a mind-numbing positivity rate of 17.6%, and just 33.4% of residents are fully vaccinated.

Nobody at the IASB or the Illinois Association of School Administrators knows yet how widespread the use of this law is, but, said one official, “It’s the most chaotic period I’ve ever seen in Illinois schools.”

“It’s really difficult right now because there’s just no clarity,” said the IASB’s Bertrand.

There is talk of attempting to require HCRCA refusers to somehow prove their beliefs are “sincerely held.” But that could be fraught with problems.

Both teachers’ unions supported the governor’s vax/test mandate. But several of their members are now raising money to hire attorneys. And that means the unions are caught in the middle.

Sarah Antonacci, the Illinois Education Association’s director of communications, said, “At this time, we are unaware of any court that has found that the law provides a basis of objection for education employees who oppose the mandates set forth in the governor’s Executive Order.”

Antonacci also admitted that the issue had created a rift between those who support the mandate “and those who believe the government may have overstepped its bounds in mandating any of these things”

Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said the existing law “did not contemplate a global health pandemic,” but said it “could take a long time” to settle legal questions in the judicial branch.

I asked both politically powerful unions if they would support a legislative fix to clarify that the law does not apply in these cases. Only the IFT’s Montgomery answered, saying the union “would consider supporting” a change.

Beyond a general support for the governor’s COVID response, the Democratic super majority in the General Assembly has shied away from legislation because an intense backlash can so easily be ginned up on Facebook nowadays. Since there was no real need to step in as long as the courts were siding with Pritzker, members would just as soon let that sleeping dog lie.

But there may be no choice now. The governor’s people say they need an amendment to the current law if there’s any hope of enforcement. I think there could be a way to press hard on the “sincerely held” beliefs angle but, barring that, if legislative Democrats want to see this thing through, then they may have to finally stick their political necks out.

* The Illinois FOP released this statement on Sunday…

Statement from Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge President Chris Southwood regarding contemplated changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act:

“As we have previously stated, we are not opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, we are opposed to being forced to take it. Furthermore, the ILFOP is vehemently opposed to any proposed changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act that would diminish any individual’s right to their religious liberties and choose what is or is not injected into their body.”

“We also decry the state’s attempt to force targeted groups of citizens, such as law enforcement officers, first responders, correctional officers, teachers and others, to a forced vaccine as a condition of employment. In America, the land of the free, laws shouldn’t be changed just because they don’t fit the current political agenda of our elected politicians who sometimes forget the rights of ‘we the people’ who elected them.”

“Conscience is an individual’s most sacred right, and the Constitutional right of religious freedom prevents the government from imposing the beliefs of one segment of the population onto another.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

Open thread

Monday, Sep 27, 2021

* If you’re too bummed to talk about football, you can always talk about other Illinois-centric topics. Have at it.

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Monday, Sep 27, 2021

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Monday, Sep 27, 2021

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* COVID-19 roundup
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Davis quietly holds fundraiser with Speaker Pelosi
* Rules for thee...
* Today's quotable
* Remap roundup
* Pritzker appears to reach the limits of his executive powers
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Other stuff
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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