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Joliet Diocese Changes Rule From 'Masks Required' To 'Masks Recommended' In Its Schools

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) -- In the wake of a temporary restraining order issued last week by a downstate judge, schools in the Diocese of Joliet have decided to make masks recommended instead of mandatory.

"We heard from many stakeholders over the weekend regarding the temporary restraining order issued on Friday by a Sangamon County judge against the governor's executive orders requiring masks in schools and a vaccination-or-test option for all school personnel," the diocese said in a letter to parents.

The district noted that while none of the Catholic dioceses in Illinois were parties to the lawsuit brought by parents that led to the judge's ruling against the COVID-19 mask mandate, the diocese has still decided to move from "masks required" to "masks recommended" effective Tuesday. Masks were still required for all students on Monday.

Under the new rules, parents will need to sign a "mask use" form indicating whether their child will wear a mask in school, and it must be turned in by Friday. The "mask recommended" guideline will also apply to school staffers.

All other COVID-19 mitigations will remain in place, including weekly testing for school staff who are not vaccinated, and three-foot social distancing.

The "masks recommended" guidance will also apply for youth religious education programs. School principals are asked to consult their pastors on mask use during mass.

The temporary restraining order against the school mask mandate was issued Friday. The office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has already filed an appeal of the temporary restraining order issued by Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow, and has filed a request for an emergency stay on the judge's ruling -- meaning the ruling is in limbo.

The state argues "the court abused its discretion in refusing to balance the harms" caused by its Friday ruling. The state even gives a date on when they'd like the court to reverse course – Feb. 7, this very day.

But so far, that emergency request has not been granted.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday called the judge's ruling blocking enforcement of the state's school mask mandate at scores of districts "out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis in Illinois and across the nation."

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