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Pritzker adds Illinois legislators to the list of those eligible for COVID-19 shots in phase 1b, but says he’s not getting in line

Pritzker adds Illinois legislators to the list of those eligible for COVID-19 shots in phase 1b, but says he’s not getting in line

by JAMIE MUNKS | CHICAGO TRIBUNE  |  Published on February 4, 2021

Illinois state legislators have been added to the list of those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination in phase 1b of the effort, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday.

Members of the General Assembly were not previously included in the state’s phase 1b plan.

“At the request of members of the General Assembly, any of the 177 state legislators who wish to be inoculated will be allowed to receive their vaccine in phase 1b,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement Wednesday. “The state of Illinois has urgent and vital business that must be addressed, and we hope that the General Assembly will engage in a robust and productive schedule in coming weeks and months.”

While opening the door for legislators to get a shot, Pritzker said he plans to wait to be inoculated, he said.

“I’m waiting my turn. I think it’s important for many of us to set an example in that way,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Champaign. “Many legislators asked if they could be vaccinated because there is so much work that needs to be done.”

Pritzker’s office received calls from legislators about being included in Phase 1b, which began on Jan. 25, Pritzker said. Several people who were in Springfield for the early January lame-duck session tested positive for COVID-19, including the House speaker’s chief of staff.

“It’s not something I’m choosing to do, it’s not something that the speaker of the House is choosing to do or that the Senate president is choosing to do, now. We’re all waiting our turn,” Pritzker said. “But we need the state of Illinois and its legislature and its government to function well.”

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last year, applauded Pritzker’s move to include lawmakers in the state’s 1b phase of vaccines.

“The issues and challenges facing the General Assembly are enormous, so this is a welcomed step in the interest of government functionality and safety,” Welch said in a statement. “Whether or not to get a vaccine is a personal choice for every member, but I encourage those who are at-risk or have vulnerable family members to strongly consider it.”

The city of Chicago has allowed government officials who fall under the city’s definition of “continuity of government,” in its phase 1b plan. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been immunized.

After a drastically shortened 2020 session, leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly have announced plans to convene for the most part remotely this month.

The House is returning to Springfield next week to vote on rules that would allow for remote committee meetings, and Welch has said House committees will otherwise largely meet remotely in February and March.

The Senate will conduct committee meetings remotely in February too, and the next scheduled session date is in early March.

For a May special session and last month’s lame-duck session, the House met at the Bank of Springfield Center, a convention and arena space that gave lawmakers and staff more room to physically distance than the House chamber at the Capitol. Next week, the House will return to the Capitol with limits on how many people can be in the chamber at a time.

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