CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday issued a new executive order requiring all daycare center workers in Illinois to get COVID vaccine shots by early January, or else undergo weekly testing for the virus.
According to the governor's office, the new mandate applies to more than 55,000 staff at licensed daycare centers across the state.
"Vaccinations offer life-saving protection for the people who receive them and make the community safer for the people who can't – including the babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine," Pritzker said in a statement. "By extending vaccine-or-test requirements to those who work at licensed day care centers, we are adding another level of protection for our youngest residents and preventing outbreaks in daycare centers as more and more parents return to work."
Daycare staff must get either the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Dec. 3, and the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine by Jan. 3, 2022.
Any daycare staff who aren't fully vaccinated by Dec. 3 must undergo weekly COVID testing until they are fully vaccinated.
"For continued, ongoing protection of our youth not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, this Executive Order is the best way to protect the lives of thousands of Illinoisans," Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. "Scientific and medical experts have reviewed the data and found the COVID-19 vaccine will avoid serious illness, hospitalization, and even death."
The new mandate comes as Illinois has seen its weekly COVID-19 case count drop for seven weeks in a row.
Illinois is averaging 2,162 new cases per day over the past week, a 50% drop from seven weeks ago, when the state was averaging 4,331 new cases per day.
The state's average infection rate stands at 2.0%, the lowest it has been since mid-July.
Statewide hospitalizations from COVID-19 also continue to decline. Illinois is averaging 1,376 hospitalizations per day over the past week, down 33% from seven weeks ago.
Meantime, vaccinations are up slightly in the past week, with Illinois currently averaging 29,950 doses administered per day, an 11% increase from last week. That's roughly the same vaccination rate as early September, as vaccinations have dropped off sharply since a surge of inoculations in April, when the vaccines first became available to all adults in Illinois.
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