Chicagoans revel in the end of the indoor mask mandate: 'I can't stop smiling'

The mask mandate ended in Illinois Monday and it’s having an immediate impact on fitness centers.

Life Time Fitness in the Gold Coast opened on Jan. 22, marking the first time members and staff are able to go without masks or showing proof of vaccination.

Employees said there are more smiles and personal interaction today, along with a bump up in the overall feeling in the gym. 


Melinda Coffey, a yoga and Pilates instructor at Life Time, said the mask requirement made it hard to gauge her classes' reactions.

"So working out is hard and being able to see people smile and laugh is different, even if it’s just a slight facial expression," Coffey said. "[Now] I can see that. This is what I’m here for, to see you smile. I can’t stop smiling I’m so grateful today. I’m so grateful to be here with our big smiles and our pearly whites and I do feel safe."

Businesses are now in the practice of frequently cleaning and having people socially distance. Today, they no longer have to police their customers over mask and vaccine policy. 

Life Time Fitness member Darbee Canady said the energy at the gym felt different Monday.

"I think wearing masks makes people feel like we have to be disconnected, if anything, especially, the gym," Canady said. "It’s a lot of high workouts, a lot of heavy breathing and if anything you want to try and keep your space during these times. So to be able to come into class this morning, I think everybody just had a little bit more of a pep in their step and a little bit more of a smile on their face. So it was a great morning."

Some people are choosing to wear masks anyway.

The removal of the mask mandate comes on the heels of declining COVID positivity rates locally and nationwide.

Some of the changes came after the CDC released new guidelines on Friday saying that most Americans live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks.

Masks are still required on public transportation, in health care and congregate settings.