State launches $5m ad campaign to promote masks as virus positivity rate on the increase

Gov. JB Pritzker

By JERRY NOWICKI

Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – COVID-19 cases are on the rise throughout the state and Gov. JB Pritzker is hoping a new $5 million state advertising campaign will help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus by encouraging use of face coverings.

Pritzker announced the campaign, which has the tagline “It only works if you wear it,” at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Operations Center in Springfield. The governor said the costs are reimbursable through federal coronavirus relief funds.

Pritzker said the campaign will permeate “really every kind of medium that you can think of,” including  “a good deal on social media,” cable, broadcast TV, Hulu, YouTube and many other platforms.

Pritzker praised a recent action by Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, who signed an order imposing fines for Springfield bars and restaurants flouting masking, social distancing and capacity restrictions. It also banned occupancy of standing areas at bars both inside and outside.

“But government action isn't the only answer,” Pritzker said. “In fact, it's not enough by itself. We also need all our residents to take this seriously, and to protect themselves.”

The advertising campaign compares face coverings to seat belts and life preservers in an effort to make their use commonplace.

“Every day we do things that keep us safe, like buckling a seatbelt or putting on a bicycle helmet. A mask is no different. It only works if you wear it. So always wear a mask when you're out in public, to protect yourself and others,” he said. “Keeping it in your pocket or wearing it just around your neck doesn't work. It's really that simple.”

When asked if the state or local governments should impose fines for those not wearing masks, Pritzker said, “The idea here is not to chase people down on the street and say, you know, ‘hey you're not wearing a mask and I'm going to throw a ticket at you.’”

He said the first priority is to ask those without masks to put one on.

“People who refuse to wear a mask, people who are entering public premises where they know they're supposed to wear a mask, and who have been reminded, and who aren't, those people certainly should be, you know, reminded again by police and ultimately if they're absolutely refusing in public, they're putting other people at risk, so it's worthy of considering fine at a local level,” he said.

When asked if the Legislature should return to Springfield to codify some of the mandates Pritzker has put in place, he said the legislative body “hasn't been willing to move forward on a mask mandate.”

“I went to the Legislature, and I asked JCAR (the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules) to consider a rule that would impose fines when people are not requiring masks to be worn. They didn't want to do that. They wanted to consider legislation and then didn't bring up that legislation. So we certainly are considering what rule we could put in place that JCAR would approve.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, reiterated the need for wearing masks in public as well.

“It's the same message we've been echoing since the beginning. We're all safer and stronger when we go all in Illinois,” she said.

(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)

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