SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Illinois Department of Public Health has filed emergency rules to make Gov. J.B. Pritzker's recent executive order regarding schools less vulnerable to legal challenges.
Most of the language in the IDPH rules is identical to the executive order Pritzker filed late Friday. However, the department deleted any references to "modified quarantine" in previous guidance. That previously allowed students to continue in-person learning after coming in contact with someone who had COVID-19.
Attorney Tom DeVore won several cases stating schools couldn't put any student under quarantine without a court order.
Attorney Brian Bare says by deleting "modified quarantine", IDPH is sending a message to the courts that they did not agree with DeVore's interpretation of their previous regulations.
The new rules clarify that school districts don't need court action to require testing, masks, or excluding students and school personnel.
"By making it clear that these types of things can happen without a court order or without an order from the county health department, that makes it much easier for schools to continue to operate in accordance with the executive orders and the guidance form the State Board of Education," Bare said.
Helping school districts and local health departments
Bare says students still have the option to stay out of school for 14 days if they opt-out of testing. The same rule applies to teachers and other school staff. Although, anyone refusing COVID-19 tests should receive a written notice explaining the reasoning for isolation or quarantine. Schools must make remote learning available for excluded students, according to Pritzker's executive order.
Bare says most school districts are trying to comply the best they can. He notes the new rules will make this an easier process.
"This gives them some tools to help when dealing with employees, when dealing with parents who maybe are not in agreement with the mandates that we have seen issued already," Bare said.
The rules also state IDPH or local health departments may administer vaccines or medications to prevent the spread of contagious or infectious diseases. This currently only applies to people required to get vaccinated for work or higher education.
IDPH also explains people can still refuse to receive vaccinations. People refusing to receive COVID-19 vaccinations would also find themselves subject to quarantine or isolation.
"Nothing in this Section shall be construed to limit the ability of schools, employers, or other institutions, to require vaccinations or to exclude individuals who do not conest to vaccination consistent with applicable law," IDPH wrote.
IDPH filed the emergency rules with the Secretary of State's Office on September 17. The rules will stay in effect for 150 days. Although, the department could decide to make changes to the rules at a later date. They would then appear before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.