On Monday, the statewide indoor mask mandate ended, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle both agreeing to follow Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s lead and end city and county-wide mandates, as well.
State and local officials also ended the vaccination card mandates, which required anyone seeking to dine in restaurants, exercise in gyms and patronize entertainment venues, among other places, to present proof of their vaccination status. In addition, weekly testing for employees covered by the mandate was also lifted.
In a statement on Feb. 25, Pritzker said the decision to end the mandates comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decrease across the state, while the availability of ICU beds steadily increases.
Since the governor announced earlier this month that he would lift the indoor mask requirement, “the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has been cut in half and the number of ICU beds available increased by 24%. Illinois’ weekly COVID-19 case rate has also decreased by 70%,” state officials said.
“More than 8 million people in Illinois are fully vaccinated with an average of approximately 16,000 COVID-19 vaccines administered each day, including more than 4,600 first doses daily,” they added.
“Today, our hospitals are much better positioned to handle emergencies and more than half of all eligible adults have been boosted; this is the progress we needed to make to remove our state indoor masking requirements,” Pritzker stated.
“As individuals, I encourage everyone to make the best choices going forward to protect your health, along with that of your family and community – and most importantly to treat each other with kindness and compassion,” the governor added.
In a statement released Feb. 22, Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) officials said that, as of Feb. 22, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the suburbs under its jurisdiction, which include all of Proviso Township, was 3% while the 7-day rolling average for confirmed cases was 285.
“The region’s ICU and Non-ICU admissions numbers, and the positivity rate are both in the ‘lower transmission’ risk category, and confirmed cases continue to decrease and are approaching the lower transmission category,” officials said.
“We are glad to be able to move with the rest of the state to lift these measures,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, CCDPH’s co-lead and senior medical officer. “We thank the residents for their cooperation, and the suburban Cook County business community for their support and compliance of the mask mandate and vaccination requirements. We urge those who have not been vaccinated to do so.”
Despite mandate’s lifting, exceptions linger
“Masks will still be required where federally mandated (including on public transit), health care facilities, congregate settings, long term care facilities, and daycare settings,” state officials announced.
“Additionally, private businesses and municipalities may choose to implement their own masking requirements,” they said.
Cook County officials pointed out that, despite the lifting of the mask mandate, “many residents will choose to continue to wear a mask — especially those who are immunocompromised and children under the age of 5 who are not eligible to be vaccinated.”
“We ask for continued understanding and kindness to those who choose to wear a mask,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, CCDPH’s co-lead and senior medical officer.
Schools shifting their approach
On Feb. 25, Pritzker announced that the removal of the mask mandate will also apply to schools — a change from his earlier stance. Previously, Pritzker had said masks would still be required in schools even after he lifted the mandate statewide.
That change of stance, however, will not impact Chicago Public Schools, which will continue to require that masks be worn in its buildings, officials announced in a letter to parents on Sunday.
“To ensure the continued safety of our students and staff, CPS will continue to require universal masking in our schools and offices for now,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said.