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Desperate To Stop Coronavirus Spread, Illinois Cracks Down On Anti-Maskers: ‘Prove Us Wrong’

Illinois mandates people wear masks when unable to social distance in public — but not everyone is following the rules.

A patron picks up a face mask as the bouncer checks an ID card at Sluggers World Class Sports Bar on Clark Street in the Wrigleyville neighborhood on June 27, 2020 during the first weekend of Illinois in Phase Four of reopening amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Face masks are required for entry at the establishment. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The state’s top doctor issued a challenge to anti-maskers amid the coronavirus pandemic: “Prove us wrong.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said people who are against masks can challenge the state’s officials by wearing one — and, if their theory is correct, they can show people wearing a mask doesn’t help.

But Ezike, of course, has urged people for months to wear masks because experts and studies say it lessens the spread of coronavirus. Illinois mandates people wear masks when unable to social distance in public.

The issue is not everyone is wearing a mask when they’re supposed to be, and that’s contributing to more COVID-19 cases, officials have said. Illinois has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations in recent weeks, Ezike said.

“My concern is growing each day about the direction our numbers are going,” Ezike said.

RELATED: Coronavirus Kills 16 More People In Illinois

In Chicago, officials have said people are letting their guard down when around family and friends outside their household and aren’t wearing masks, and that’s driving the rise in new cases here.

Ezike said people should take safety steps like wearing a mask — as well as practicing social distancing and washing their hands — to protect those around them.

“… We’re all in this together. Like it or not, your actions impact me and my actions impact you,” Ezike said at a Wednesday press conference. “So we need to be decent and understanding and respectful of each other.”

The state is also trying to crack down on anti-maskers. It’s now a felony to assault or beat a retail worker when they’re requiring customers to wear a mask or practice social distancing.

The measure is aimed at protecting workers so they feel safe enforcing health rules, like wearing masks in stores.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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