Pritzker: COVID outbreaks continue in youth sports, eviction moratorium extended, election grant needed

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — Hours after the Big Ten Conference announced that football would kick off in late October, Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike stressed that high school and younger-level sports are unable to maintain the kind of daily COVID-19 precautions of professional or league sports, making them more prone to spread.

“Over the summer, we saw outbreaks across Illinois and the world, tied to a variety of youth sports leagues,” Pritzker said. “Those continue today, even among the lowest-risk youth sports. We have watched professional sports and even some college teams play seemingly without many problems. But remember these programs are operating with daily testing, or in a league-created bubble, or with facilities that allow for outsized social distancing and are sanitized every day.

“… That’s not what’s available to the vast majority of young people who play sports in Illinois,” he said. “…I want our kids back on the playing field, or on the ice, as much as anyone, and we’ll get there. When the doctors say it’s safe. Until then, let’s focus on keeping our schools and our businesses open, and on keeping everyone safe.”

On July 29, the state issued restrictions for youth sports aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Those restrictions continue, Pritzker said.

Mike Lin, an infectious disease specialist from Rush University Medical Center, added Wednesday that off-field activities — such as using locker rooms, traveling and working out in gyms — also highten the ability of the virus to spread.

“As hard as it may be seeing me on our children will reduce infections and save lives. With every youth athlete, there is a parent, or maybe a sibling or a grandparent, who may be at risk for terrible outcomes and COVID-19 disease,” Lin said during the press briefing. “Sports do not operate in a vacuum. And if COVID-19 spreads among our young athletes, it becomes a risk for our entire community.”

Also related to the coronavirus pandemic is an uptick in requests for vote-by-mail applications, as well as a drop in the number of people volunteering to be election judges come November 3.

That’s why the governor said he requested that the Illinois State Board of Elections dedicate $4 million Help America Vote Act funding to “developing an emergency grant program that will further subsidize and incentive the use of dropboxes, support local efforts to recruit election judges, and address other challenges confronting some of the county election officials across our state.”

“The Board of Elections directors shouldn’t wake up the day after election day and wish that they had done more to strengthen our democracy and ensure our most fundamental right the right to vote,” Pritzker said.

A moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic has also been extended by another 30 days, the governor said.

More than 100,000 people have applied for the state’s housing assistance program, but the state — which operates the largest pandemic housing stability program in the U.S. — only has enough funding to support approximately 40,000 people.

Pritzker urged Illinois lawmakers to advocate in Congress for more federal dollars.

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