Pritzker sets date for end of indoor mask mandate in Illinois
CHICAGO - The end is near when it comes to masking-up in Illinois. On Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that in less than three weeks, he plans to lift the statewide mask requirement in most indoor places.
As long as COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to trend downward, mask-wearing will be relaxed in Illinois beginning Monday, Feb. 28.
On Wednesday, Cook County and Chicago health officials said they plan to follow suit.
"We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began," said Gov. Pritzker. "Our daily total of COVID patients in the hospital has fallen from over 7,300 to about 2,500 today. A 66 percent drop."
A projection from the state shows that in just ten days, the number of hospitalized COVID patients could be as low as 500.
"We are on track to come out on the other side of this latest COVID storm in better shape than even the doctors expected," said Pritzker.
Once the mandate is lifted on Feb. 28, local and federal mandates will still apply.
"The mandate ending doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be maskless anywhere at any time," said Dr. Emily Landon, UChicago Medicine.
Masks will still be required in the following settings:
- Healthcare Settings: Continue mask requirement
- Long Term Care Facilities: Continue mask requirement
- Congregate Settings (prisons, shelters, etc.): Continue mask requirement
- Transportation: Follow federal guidelines
- Daycare: Follow Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) guidelines
Additionally, Pritzker said he intends to continue requiring masks in K-12 schools until further notice, unless pending legal battles impact a particular school.
Federal regulations mean masks must still be worn in airports, on airplanes and while using public transportation until at least Friday, Mar. 18.
Plus, it will be up to businesses to come up with their own masking rules.
"As we all know, we are now into year three with COVID and it has been a roller coaster ride that no one asked to get on," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director, Illinois Department of Public Health. "Be clear that COVID is not gone and it won’t be gone on February 28th so we are going to continue to find ways to live with the virus."
Following Pritzker’s announcement, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health stated that they too will ease masking requirements – if there continues to be a decline in COVID metrics.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Public Health said, in part:
"If we as a City continue to see declines in these leading COVID metrics, we too should be in a position to lift restrictions at that time. When the City makes this transition, many Chicagoans may continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons, even if they are vaccinated or as mandates and advisories fade. Someone may be immunocompromised, prefer to wear a mask, or have a family member who is immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated. Please be kind and conscientious of your fellow Chicagoans and the decisions they make to protect themselves."
Meanwhile, the Cook County Department of Public Health issued the following statement:
"The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) anticipates that if key metrics continue to improve through February, the CCDPH vaccination and masking order for suburban Cook County (minus Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney Township) can be lifted consistent with the Governor’s time frame. School masking may continue to be required for all school staff, and for all students not named in the current suit."