CHICAGO - Don't put away that mask just yet.
With COVID cases once again on the rise in the City of Chicago, public health officials on Tuesday issued a new indoor mask mandate for bars, restaurants, gyms and other public venues.
"I have been alarmed by how quickly Delta has spread," said Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, who announced that it's "Back to the Future" for Chicago residents.
Arwady said the indoor mask mandate will be re-imposed on Friday, following a sharp spike in COVID infections in Chicago.
"We're hopeful that having the masks in place for everybody will get us through Delta, while we keep working on getting folks vaccinated, and with doing that our goal is to remain open, but careful," Arwady said.
Chicago is now averaging nearly 420 new COVID infections a day, which is well above the 400 threshold that triggers the mask mandate. And it's nearly five times the daily number of infections reported in the city just two months ago.
At this point, however, Arwady said the city is not instituting any other measures like partial capacity limits.
In addition, Arwady says Chicago Public Schools will not be affected.
"We are one-hundred percent moving ahead with in-person education August 30th, and that is the right thing to do," she said.
As for compliance, the city says it will be sending teams of inspectors into businesses to perform checks. If only a couple people are in violation, no big deal. They might get a warning. But Ken Meyer, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs, said they will be ticketing gross violations.
"Obviously if there's something egregious, if there's a big party, no social distancing, nobody wearing a mask, we then can enforce and write a citation," Meyer said.
It's not great news for bars and restaurants, many of whom are still struggling to survive after last year's pandemic shutdown.
"The mask requirements aren't ideal," said Sam Toia, head of the Illinois Restaurant Association. "However restaurants get to stay open and safely serve their customers. So we're okay with that."
Dr. Arwady said the mask mandate will not be lifted until Chicago's daily infection rate falls below 400 for a couple weeks. And if it surges past 800, Arwady said that could trigger more restrictive measures, like tight limits on crowd capacity.