CHICAGO - Masks must be worn in public indoor settings in Chicago regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status as the city continues to see an increase in COVID-19 transmission, public health officials announced Tuesday.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask beginning Friday, Aug. 20, while indoors in public settings.
It will apply to gyms, stores, common areas of apartment buildings and in restaurants, though people will be allowed to remove face coverings while eating and drinking. Masks are already required in schools under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide order.
"With the highly transmissible Delta variant causing case rates to increase, now is the time to re-institute this measure to prevent further spread and save lives," Arwady said. "We continue to track the data closely and are hopeful this will only be temporary and we can bend the COVID curve, as we’ve done in the past."
While masking remains optional in outdoor settings where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower, Arwady recommended masks be worn by unvaccinated individuals while in crowded outdoor settings.
The mandate comes at the heels of Chicago passing the threshold of 400 new cases per day, putting it in the CDC’s high-risk category for community transmission. The daily average case rate rose to 419 on Monday. However, the count is far lower than a winter peak of more than 3,000 daily cases, according to Arwady.
She said no further restrictions or closures were planned.
"Our goal is to remain open but careful," Arwady said at a news conference. "In terms of where we’ve been, as a city, it is not a cause for alarm. It is a cause for caution."
Currently, Chicago is averaging 18 COVID-19-related hospitalizations a day, which is down from a peak of roughly 200 a day, Arwady said.
Arwady said more than 70% of adults in Chicago have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
When will Chicago's new mask mandate take effect?
The new mandate will take effect on Friday, August 20.
Where will Chicago residents be required to wear masks?
Masks are required in all indoor public settings, including bars and restaurants, gyms, common areas of condos and multi-residential buildings, and private clubs. Similar to previous mask mandates, masks can be removed at restaurants, bars and other eating/drinking establishments by patrons when they are actively eating and drinking. Masks can also be removed for certain activities that require their removal, such as beard shaves or facials. Additionally, masks can be removed by employees in settings that are not open to the public, if employees are static and maintaining at least six feet from all other individuals (office cubicles, for example).
Masks also remain mandatory on public transportation, in healthcare settings, schools, and correctional and congregate settings. The new public health order does not include capacity limits at public places, and masking remains optional in outdoor settings, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower. Masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded outdoor settings.