Pritzker lifts mask requirement for Illinois public transportation
CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday he’s lifting the requirement to wear a mask on public transportation to align with a federal court ruling issued Monday.
Effective immediately, masks will no longer be required on public transit, in public transit hubs, or in airports.
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"I’m proud of the work our state has done to fight COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable," Gov. Pritzker said in a statement. "I continue to urge Illinoisans to follow CDC guidelines and, most importantly, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others."
It’s important to note that local municipalities have the power to establish their own mitigations, including masking requirements on public transportation, according to the governor's office.
Metra immediately announced masks will no longer be required onboard trains but asked that people be "courteous and kind toward your fellow riders and understanding of their needs and choices."
"This has been a difficult period for everyone — let’s all do what we can to help each other on the way back," Metra officials wrote in a statement.
As of Tuesday morning, Chicago Transit Authority riders were still required to wear masks onboard but officials have been made aware of the state’s new policy and plan to release an updated statement shortly.
The Chicago Department of Aviation also announced Tuesday afternoon they will no longer mandate masks inside of O’Hare or Midway airports.
Nearly 2,300 Illinoisans have tested positive for COVID-19 each day over the past week, a rate that has more than doubled in the past month as the more infectious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron has swelled to dominance. But coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are still hovering around pandemic lows.
Nearly 73% of eligible Illinoisans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 81% have had at least one dose, according to the state. You can set up a vaccine appointment HERE.
"The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to remain up-to-date on your vaccinations, and that includes booster shots, especially for those who are at risk for more severe health outcomes," Acting IDPH Director Amaal Tokars said in a statement.
The CDC still recommends that individuals who are immunocompromised, those who cannot be vaccinated, and those in congregate places wear masks to protect people at high-risk.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s decision freed airlines, airports and mass transit systems to make their own decisions about mask requirements, resulting in a mix of responses.
The mask requirement covered airlines, airports, mass transit and taxis, and was the biggest vestige of pandemic restrictions that were once the norm across the country.
The nation’s two biggest ride-hailing companies said early Tuesday they were also changing their policies.
Lyft had announced that masks would now be optional for drivers and passengers.
Uber, in a tweet Tuesday morning, announced: "You can now ride without a mask and use the front seat if you need to. While mask usage is still recommended, we’ve updated our Covid Safety policies. Let’s move forward, safely together."
However, not everyone is cheering the move.
"I think it's awful because it puts those of us who are older or immunocompromised at risk, unnecessarily. I don't think this is a horrible thing to have to wear a mask for a little bit longer," one traveler said.
Meanwhile, others believe it should be left to the individual to decide.
"It's up to the individual and if they want to wear one, that's totally fine," said traveler Andrew Ryder.
Chicago’s top doctor is still promoting masking.
"The advice I would give is to wear a mask," said Dr. Allison Arwady.
Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.