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Mask or no mask, that is the question

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) was removed from the Bank of Springfield Convention Center for refusing to wear a facial covering during special session Wednesday afternoon. Members of Bailey's chamber voted 81-27 to remove him from the floor and he was escorted out of the building by security. This came as the House officially adopted rules for everyone to wear facial coverings inside the BoS Center.

Besides ignoring the facial covering requirement, the Eastern Illinois lawmaker never tested for COVID-19 before arriving in Springfield. Bailey tells the Capitol Bureau he doesn't think he put any lawmakers or staff at risk.

"You don't go to the hospital, you don't get checkup unless you show symptoms, alright," Bailey said. "You can go get a test today and wait for the results later, and you can still potentially have COVID or get COVID the moment you get your results back."

Bailey says some of his constituents want to get tested, but they are told to quarantine for two weeks instead. "I felt that would be very irresponsible of me to take a testing that I knew was not necessary that somebody else should have."

Risking the health of others

He claims there was no need to get a COVID test, "because I have no symptoms." However, Bailey also called out lawmakers who tested for the virus last week. He says they may have it today and never know. While claiming they may be asymptomatic, Bailey never took a test to find out if he is in the same category.

What will you feel like if one of your coworkers or staffers gets COVID because you walked in there without a test and no mask?

"Well, how on earth would you be able to pinpoint that onto anyone," Bailey asked. The Republican asked if the Bureau could tell him where everyone had contact with others (got groceries, gas). "This situation is too broad for that. And I feel like the numbers - all of this stuff that's spewing out of our governor's mouth - I think is coming back on him. That's why he's backtracking."

Gov. Pritzker says Bailey showed a "callous disregard for life" through his actions Wednesday. "You just heard a doctor tell you why people wear masks in the first place - it’s to protect others. So clearly the representative has no interest in protecting others."

"I am taking this serious"

As Bailey deflected the question, he claimed Gov. JB Pritzker is spreading a "false narrative." He backs up that assertion by noting his district faces a financial pandemic from the stay-at-home order. Bailey says all he can do is try to help residents get in contact with IDES employees processing unemployment claims. He says struggling business owners are driving him to make a difference in the state. "I am taking this serious and I seriously believe we are being fed a false narrative from our governor. I do not understand what the net results are."

Are you saying there are false narratives from experts like Dr. Ngozi Ezike, a medical professional?

"Yeah, because we don't get all of the data, all of the truth that we ask for."

Bailey says people dying in car accidents with COVID in their system are labeled as COVID deaths. However, Dr. Ezike says the Illinois Department of Public Health is working to remove any such cases from the statewide list. Ezike says the state reports deaths with laboratory confirmation, meaning a test indicates they were in fact positive for the virus. Bailey feels the state uses the number of COVID deaths as a "marketing ploy." The conservative lawmaker says he is only asking for accountability and transparency.


Some lawmakers are asking how you are being held accountable when you won't don't plan on returning to session this week. You're not going Friday because you'll be back in court against the governor. So, are you accepting pay for the days you won't be there?

"Well, I think stepping up and speaking out on behalf of the people I represent and many, many more in the state of Illinois - putting my neck on the chopping block as I've done - I feel like I've done much more than anybody over there has done, period."

Bailey says the state can't continue to "take government's answer." He claims residents and businesses leave the state because of decisions by other lawmakers.

Wouldn't it work better if you were able to be apart of the discussion specifically about the budget? There's going to be financial benefits coming out of this session for people that have been hurt by this pandemic. You're not in the room.

"Well, I haven't decided. There may be a possibility that I'm there tomorrow. I don't think that I will be."

Bailey says his statements in protest "carry more weight" than participating in the special session. "We're gonna change this state. That's my end goal - to flip this thing."

Bailey was greeted by several Reopen Illinois protesters after he was escorted out of the BoS Center. A much larger crowd was present as lawmakers entered the building for session.

"I did not see them"

Many people were unhappy to see, once again, there was a poster out there that compared Gov. Pritzker to Hitler. When you see that, have you spoken out against these people? Leader Durkin spoke to the one individual today. What do you say when you see these things? You spoke in front of someone with a sign like that last weekend.

"I did not see them," Bailey said. "Matter of fact, there was one of those signs up on the Lincoln statue that I believe someone stuck up there."

Bailey stresses he would not get up to speak to the crowd until the sign was removed. "I don't know if it was a plant, I don't know." He says the signs don't belong there, but it shouldn't take away the rally message.

He says Chicago Democrats and the Jewish Legislative Caucus told him to condemn the antisemitic signs. "I did. But, guess what it wasn't enough." Bailey claims it's never enough for them. "They always want to keep my back up against the wall, such as your questions."

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Mike Miletich

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