When will the Illinois mask mandate end?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday when he plans to ease the statewide mask mandate.

"The intention is to lift the mask mandate in indoor locations by Feb. 28," Pritzker said at a morning press conference. "Of course, we still have sensitive locations of K-12 schools where we have lots of people who are joined together in smaller spaces, thousands of people interacting in one location at a time, so that's something that will come weeks hence."

Masks won’t be required in grocery stores, restaurants and other gathering points, but they’ll still be required in hospitals, on mass transit and some other settings with vulnerable residents.

The Democratic governor intends to keep the mask mandate in place in public schools — pending the result of a legal challenge in downstate Sangamon County.


"But very importantly, things are getting better across the state of Illinois, and that’s really a credit to leaders across the state, but really to the people of Illinois," Pritzker said.

Pritzker said a more detailed announcement of the state's masking plan will take place at 2 p.m. at the Thompson Center.

Hospitalizations in Illinois have decreased from 7,400 in mid-January to about 2,600.

Pritzker initially addressed the changes in a downstate appearance Tuesday, "We’ve gotten here because people have been wearing masks in Illinois. So it’s a tremendous desire of mine, which is to do what we did last summer, to take masks off and see if we can’t get through this now that we have treatments, testing and vaccines." 

"We have to be very careful about how we remove those mask mandates," in schools — Pritzker said; hinting at perhaps a different set of rules for students.

State Republicans are urging the governor to follow suit with other states like Oregon and California, that just announced plans to lift their requirements.

"Unnecessary chaos, those are the only words that can describe what we're dealing with because Gov. Pritzker continues to insist on ending these mandates only on his own terms," said State Rep. Tom Morrison.

The Illinois Education Association issued a statement Tuesday, urging school districts not to remove masks just yet, citing the safety of students and staff.

Despite a downstate judge's ruling, the IEA says, "Districts should not make any rash decisions changing COVID safety requirements."

Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, voiced his support for the easing of mask restrictions.

"We are encouraged by the Governor's decision to end the mask mandate in Illinois as Covid-19 cases have dropped to their lowest levels in more than two months," Toia said in a statement. "Restaurants continue to do their part to keep their diners and team members safe, and are eager to take this next step toward normalcy and recovery. This is a sure sign of hope for many restaurants throughout our state still struggling to rebuild their businesses."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.