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Gov. JB Pritzker Again Warns Schools That Defy Mask Mandate Could Face State Sanctions; 'Am I Really Going To Do That? Yes'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker is doubling down on a stern warning for school districts that are defying his mask mandate.

The governor said, if they keep it up, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will impose sanctions, including the loss of state funding, ineligibility for state-sanctioned sports, and the loss of state recognition of graduating seniors' diplomas.

"Am I really going to do that? Yes, we are really going to do that, and by the way, many school districts are heeding our call to have mask mandates in their schools; and so they're reversing their position," Pritzker said on Tuesday. "What I would tell you is that it's extraordinarily important that we keep our kids safe."

The governor's school mask mandate covers students, teachers, and staff in preschool through 12th grade throughout the state, including both public and private schools.

Pritzker has said students and staff with respiratory problems or other medical issues that make them unable to tolerate wearing the mask will be granted exemptions.

Dozens of school districts have decided to leave masking decisions up to parents, although some reversed course after ISBE placed them on probation.

Meantime, Pritzker also is warning he might be forced to impose new COVID-19 restrictions in Illinois if new cases continue to rise to the point hospitals are filling up.

"If we are not able to bring these numbers down, if hospitals continue to fill, if the hospital beds and ICUs get full, like they are in Kentucky, that's just next door to Illinois, if that happens, we're going to have to impose significantly greater mitigations," Pritzker said.

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