Will Chicago drop indoor mask mandate by end of month? Not sure yet
CHICAGO - A rapid decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations over the last several weeks means most Illinoisans can look forward to ditching their masks beginning Monday, Feb. 28; however, Chicago’s top doctor is not making any promises.
While city health leaders are not ruling out the possibility of lifting the local mask mandate, they aren't committing to it either.
As of Tuesday, Chicago’s COVID case rate was lower than both the state and nationwide averages. Still, health officials said the risk of getting or spreading the virus in a public indoor setting is not low enough just yet.
"If we look at the progress we’ve made, it’s pretty remarkable," said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health.
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To lift the local mask mandate, Arwady said at least three metrics on the city’s Community Transmission and Risk Matrix must reach the ‘lower transmission’ (blue) or ‘low transmission’ (green) categories.
"I want to be clear that we just have to get to these metrics. That’s what has gotten us this far," said Arwady. "I’m not comfortable moving and I don’t think it’s appropriate to move if you haven’t hit three of four metrics."
As of Tuesday evening, Chicago’s test positivity rate dropped to 1.9 percent – into the ‘low transmission’ category.
COVID cases, along with occupied hospital and ICU beds are still in the ‘substantial transmission’ (yellow) category.
"We need to learn how to live and open up safely, and we can only do that if we start pulling back some of these mitigations," said Alderman Ray Lopez, 15th Ward.
Meanwhile, Alderman Lopez believes the time is now. Lopez, last week, led a group of alderpersons in writing a letter to the health commissioner, and is once again asking the city not to delay lifting its mask mandate.
"Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to move the goal post on Chicagoans as to when we can open," said Lopez. "It’s hurting our businesses, it’s hurting our communities, and we need to take a different approach."
Arwady said she hopes to announce a decision on the city’s mask mandate next week.
"If we are unable to move on the 28th, I think it would probably be not very long after that," said Arwady.
As Illinois prepares to lift its mandate at the end of the month, other states including New York and California are also moving forward with ending indoor mask requirements in most places.