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Watch now: Illinois launches $5 million mask awareness campaign
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Watch now: Illinois launches $5 million mask awareness campaign

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced the launch of a $5 million multimedia campaign to push the use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, and said it was “worthy of considering a fine” for those who flout mask regulations.

The ad campaign will carry the tagline “it only works if you wear it” and will focus on cities and counties in the state that “have the most work to do,” Pritzker said. The governor launched the effort in Springfield, days after Sangamon County was one of 11 counties in the state flagged by the Illinois Department of Public Health as at a “warning level” based on COVID-19 metrics.

The campaign will “respond to the latest trends in cases and mobility at the county level,” concentrating the spending on areas of the state where COVID-19 metrics indicate a potential resurgence.

For people who “are absolutely refusing” to wear a mask in public, “they’re putting other people at risk, so it’s worthy of considering a fine at a local level.”

In May, Pritzker asked a bipartisan legislative rule-making panel to consider a controversial rule change that would have businesses face a misdemeanor criminal charge, punishable by a $2,500 fine or 364 days in jail, for opening in violation of his stay-at-home order.

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Amid complaints the penalties in that emergency rule proposal were too harsh, and when it appeared the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules may have been poised to block it, Pritzker backed off.

Pritzker on Monday said his administration is exploring another rule related to mask wearing.

“I asked JCAR 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,” Pritzker said Monday of the four-day special General Assembly session in May. “We certainly are considering what rule we could put in place that JCAR would approve.”

Pritzker acknowledged it is difficult for restaurant, bar, retail and other business owners to enforce mask rules in their establishment without a measure in place for public health or police “to come in and at least remind everybody, put a warning in place for everybody.”

Pritzker imposed a statewide mask mandate on May 1 for people over the age of 2 who are medically able to wear a face covering, as the state moved into the second phase of his “Restore Illinois” reopening plan.

The new campaign will be broadcast through social media, radio, television and billboards in both English and Spanish. The campaign is being funded with federal dollars the state has received for its coronavirus response, Pritzker said.

The campaign launch comes as the state’s seven-day average positivity rate for COVID-19 now stands at 4%, compared with 2.6% as of July 3.

Public health officials on Monday announced 1,298 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus statewide during the prior 24 hours, and 10 additional deaths of people with COVID-19. That brings the statewide total for known cases to 183,241, and 7,526 deaths of people with COVID-19, since the pandemic began.

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