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Pritzker Again Defends High School Sports Decision, Touts Testing Capacity

Gov. JB Pritzker touts the state's COVID-19 testing capacity at a news conference in Springfield.
Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois
Gov. JB Pritzker touts the state's COVID-19 testing capacity at a news conference in Springfield.

After weekend protests against postponing many fall high school sports, Gov. JB Pritzker again defended the decision.

At a news conference in Springfield, Pritzker said looking to colleges or the NFL isn’t a fair comparison because they are doing more testing, cleaning and quarantining.

“I mean it’s a lot different in high schools across the state in Illinois,” he said. “High schools can’t afford to do that kind of thing. And it’s too bad – I’d love to see high school sports like football played.”

Pritzker said some sports – such as cross country – are going on. He said he'll continue to follow advice from public health experts. 

With chants of “Let us play!”, protesters gathered over the weekend outside the Thompson Center in Chicago and the State Capitol in Springfield to call on the governor to allow fall sports. Some argued the ban made it more harder for students to get college scholarships to play sports.

Over the summer, the Illinois High School Sports Association, the nonprofit that oversees scholastic sports, moved football, volleyball and boys soccer to the spring under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public of Health.

Meanwhile, Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike touted the success of the state’s COVID-19 testing program. The state reached a new peak of daily tests over the weekend, with more than 74,000 completed. Illinois ranks third behind New York and California in daily tests done last week, and has performed more than 5 million tests, Pritzker said.

Ezike said screening helps inform decisions about where to institute more restrictions that slow the spread of the disease.

“It also helps investigators identify potential cases, often someone who is a close contact of the confirmed case so that that individual can quarantine to reduce the risk of further spread,” she said.

IDPH reported more than 1,477 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday and seven additional deaths due to the disease.

Pritkzer also addressed calls for a continued moratorium on utility shut-offs. Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison can again send shut-off notices to customers – which had been halted for months during the pandemic.

Pritzker says his administration is working with utilities to give people more time to pay. Some customers and community activists are calling for a continued ban on utility disconnections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pritzker said he wants people to know there’s a limit to what the state can order businesses to do.

“We’re trying very hard to look for ways to balance these interests and we continue to try that with the utilities as well,” he said.

The governor’s statewide ban on utility shut-offs ended in July. Ameren and Com-Ed opted to extend it through last week. And five other companies - Nicor Gas, Northshore/Peoples Gas, Illinois American Water, Aqua Illinois, and Utility Services of Illinois - extended the ban through the end of the month, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission .

The ICC, the state agency that oversees private utilities, recently sent a letter urging the companies to voluntarily decide not to disconnect residential customers through December 1, at which point the state’s usual winter moratorium on gas and electricity disconnections kicks in. It lasts through March 31.

The Associated Press contributed to this reporting. 

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program atUISand received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.
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