WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump to implement a national mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“This might be the most important thing we can do to save lives. We need a national masking mandate,” Pritzker said during remote testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Examining the National Response to the Worsening Coronavirus Pandemic.
“We instituted ours in Illinois on May 1 — first in the nation — and it aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate,” he said.
At the time of his testimony, Pritzker’s administration boasted some of the best public health marks in the nation on slowing the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Pritzker said it’s “not too late for the federal government to make an impact,” adding, “in fact, it’s more important than ever.”
Pritzker again criticized President Trump’s early reluctance to federalize the production and distribution of personal protective equipment through the Defense Production Act, and claimed the Trump administration’s hesitation cost lives.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, states were forced to play some sort of sick ‘Hunger Games’ game show to save the lives of our people,” Pritzker said, referring to a bidding war on medical supplies that erupted in the absence of a nationalized emergency market.
“Let me be clear, this is not a reality TV show,” he said. “It’s the federal government’s job to make sure that a nurse being properly equipped in Peoria, Illinois, doesn’t come at the cost of a doctor being ready for work in San Antonio, Texas. There was no national plan to acquire PPE or testing supplies, and as a result, people died.”
Pritzker also urged the Trump administration to take steps to bolster insurance for testing and federal funding for state and local governments.
“The federal administration also needs to provide clarity on insurance coverage or COVID-19 testing,” he said. “Testing is not a one-off tactic. We need regular testing across our population, and that means people need to know that their insurance will cover their testing, every time.”
Pritzker also described the impact COVID-19 could have on local governments after an economic recession resulted in severe losses in local and state tax revenues. He told members of Congress, “without help, there will be massive layoffs of public servants, teachers and firefighters.”