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You Must Cover Your Face In Illinois Starting May 1. Here’s What You Need To Know

You don't need surgical masks, which are hard to come by. But you must wear a cloth face covering if you cannot practice social distancing, officials said.

Wicker Park resident Karol Kadechka holds bags of masks she has hand sewn for first responders.
Lauren Nepomuceno/Provided
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CHICAGO — Illinoisans will be required to cover their faces in public starting May 1 to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The move was announced by Gov. JB Pritzker, who has long recommended people wear masks or face coverings in public to prevent transmitting coronavirus to others.

Here’s what you need to know:

What’s required?

Starting May 1, Illinoisans will be required to wear a face covering or mask when in public and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people, according to the governor’s office.

Face coverings or masks are also required in public indoor spaces, like stores.

In other words, if you can’t practice social distancing and are around other people, whether on a crowded sidewalk or at the grocery store, you must wear a mask or face covering.

Who has to wear masks?

Everyone who is older than 2 and can medically tolerate a mask or face covering must follow the requirement.

Essential businesses are also now required to give their employees face coverings if the employees are not able to stay 6 feet away from other people in their workplace.

Why is this being required?

Scientists have discovered people can spread coronavirus even if they don’t have symptoms and don’t realize they have the virus.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control has advised people to wear face coverings or masks in public spaces, like stores, where they can’t practice social distancing.

Face coverings and masks can prevent people from unknowingly transmitting coronavirus to others since COVID-19 spreads through droplets, like those that come out of your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough.

If you’re confused about face masks, you can read more here.

Do you need a hospital mask?

No, you do not need a specialty mask. The CDC recommends people do not use surgical masks or N95 respirators because those should be saved for health care workers and first responders.

Where can you get a face covering or mask?

Masks have been difficult to come by since the crisis began — but the CDC recommends you don’t use surgical masks, anyway, since those should be saved for health care workers and first responders.

You can order a mask or face covering made from a local sewer online or you can make your own.

Many businesses have started making and selling masks, so look around for local businesses:

  • Golden Touch Cleaners, 1527 E. 55th St., is selling masks for $12 each.
  • Eastern Accents in Avondale is selling masks for $14 each and donating a mask for each one sold. You can order online.
  • Chicago Upholstery and Drapery Co., 7101 N. Ridge Blvd., is selling masks for $4 to elderly people.

How can you make a mask or face covering?

The CDC has an online guide for how to make a face covering out of supplies you might have at home, like an old T-shirt, jeans or bandannas.

The guide includes instructions for making a covering with or without sewing.

How do you wear a mask?

The CDC has an online guide for wearing masks and face coverings.

The agency recommends:

  • Face coverings should fit snugly but comfortable against the side of the face.
  • They should be secured over your face with ties or ear loops.
  • They should include multiple layers of fabric.
  • They should allow you to breathe without causing any restrictions.
  • They should be able to be washed and dried without being damaged or changing shape.

The CDC also recommends you wash your masks and face coverings regularly.

When does this begin?

The face covering requirement begins May 1 and runs through the end of the stay at home order on May 30.

How will the requirement be enforced?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Pritzker have said they do not intend to arrest people who do not wear face coverings in public, though they do expect people to comply and to encourage others to cover their faces.

Pritzker said stores must start requiring customers wear a mask or face covering if they wish to come inside and shop.

The order will be enforced “the same way that everything else has been enforced. It’s certainly done at the local level. We’re not encouraging police officers to stop people and arrest them or take drastic action,” Pritzker said. “We are encouraging everybody certainly to encourage everybody else they know … .

“People should wear a mask and they should be reminded if they’re not wearing a mask … . And private establishments do need to require that people who enter their establishments do wear a mask.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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