WASHINGTON – A day after President Donald Trump said Illinois “could use a new governor,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday said with COVID-19 infections rising, Trump has “made it nearly impossible” for states to move forward with widespread re-openings.
Pritzker also accused unnamed “Trump allies in our state” of contributing to the spike in Illinois COVID-19 infections by “urging people” to not pay attention to social distancing and other rules.
The governor made his remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview with host Jake Tapper.
Trump stumped in Wisconsin Saturday – in Janesville, not far from the Illinois border – with backers crowded into a rally at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, with many not wearing masks.
A central Trump strategy is to downplay the struggle to contain the health and economic crises triggered by the COVID-19 infections while Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign is trying to make the election a referendum on how the president has managed the pandemic.
Trump came to Wisconsin as the the state’s Department of Health Services reported a record number of COVID-19 cases. Illinois also smashed state records last week, with hospitalizations and positive test rate jumping, leading Pritzker to declare the state is “in a new wave.”
At his Janesville rally Trump said, “Tell you what, Illinois could use a new governor. That guy doesn’t know what’s happened. They got to open up that state, they got to open up that state. You watch what happens,” Trump said, adding, “On Nov. 4, they’ll all say all right now everybody; they’re only doing this for politics, I really believe that.”
Trump also blistered the Democratic Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers.
Asked by Tapper to reply, Pritzker said, “the president has made it nearly impossible for states to open up any more than they are now.
“… This pandemic has been around now for seven to eight months, and without much help from the federal government we’ve been fighting it off.”
Pritzker said Illinois is impacted by the higher rates of infections in the border states of Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa.
Unlike Illinois, those three states are in play in the presidential contest. Every poll has consistently found Biden well ahead of Trump in Illinois.
“So it is dangerous right now. We want people to wear masks. We want people to socially distance. We need to make sure that we have certain mitigations in place, and, of course, we’ve already opened up much of our economy. But we have to maintain certain capacity limits, and make sure that our people are safe and healthy,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said Trump is making it harder by “modeling bad behavior. He doesn’t wear a mask in public, he has rallies where they don’t encourage people to wear masks in public.”
Tapper asked Pritzker why Illinois is going “in the wrong direction.”
Pritzker said one factor is the leadership “at the federal level” is “so bad.”
“We are trying to continue to convince people to do the right thing, but it is the president’s allies in our state, all across the state, who are simply saying to people, ‘Don’t pay any attention to the mitigations, don’t follow the rules.’”
Last month, the Illinois Republican Party failed in a bid to get a federal court order to strike down Pritzker’s executive order limiting crowd sizes.
On Sept. 3, a federal appeals panel sitting in Chicago ruled against the state party. The three-judge panel included two judges nominated by Trump, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and Amy St. Eve.
Added Pritzker, “Indeed, there are bars and restaurants, which are restricted from expanding their indoor service that are just ignoring the rules, and they’re just filling the place up, and when people stop by and they see that while no one else is wearing a mask, maybe that’s OK. It’s not OK.”