CHICAGO — Illinois will no longer require fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public and most private settings, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday.
The guidance says even people who are vaccinated still need to wear masks in congregate settings; on airplanes, buses and trains; in health-care settings and when at businesses where the owners require them. The state will require masks in schools and day care.
People who are not fully vaccinated should continue wearing masks in public settings, according to a Governor’s Office news release.
The state has required Illinoisans to wear masks in public since April 23, 2020, when the pandemic’s first wave was tearing through Illinois. Officials previously said they expected people to be wearing masks through 2021.
But those predictions changed last week, when officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outside or in most indoor settings. Masks are still recommended for people who aren’t vaccinated.
In response, many states announced changes to their masking rules. Pritzker said Illinois will join them on Monday.
“I do think the CDC’s guidelines are good ones, and we will follow them here in the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said at a Monday news conference “… If you can read the CDC guidelines, you know what we will be doing in the state of Illinois.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she wants clarification from the CDC on its guidelines, saying the announcement was “abrupt.” She’s said she’ll continue to wear a mask in public.
“I think we need from the CDC some clarification on what that means because I know that I’ve been fully vaccinated … but we don’t know, in any given setting, who has been fully vaccinated,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference Monday. “I will just say for myself, I will continue to wear my mask, certainly in indoors, but also in certain outdoor spaces when I don’t know the people that I’m around, whether they’ve been fully vaccinated or not.”
Fully vaccinated people can:
- Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
- Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
- Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.
- Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings.
- Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
- Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.
For now, fully vaccinated people are asked to continue to:
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
The mask changes have been controversial, as the majority of the country — including the majority of Illinoisans — are not yet fully vaccinated. The changing guidance relies on people to be honest about their vaccination status.
Some fear lifting the mask mandate is a move too far as COVID-19 is still spreading, but others want a return to normalcy.
On Monday, health care workers from the Illinois Medical Professionals Action Collaborative sent a letter to Pritzker asking the state to continue to require universal masking unless there is a way to verify people are vaccinated.
“We are concerned that doing away with universal masking in public indoor spaces is premature and will place many of Illinois’ most vulnerable members at risk. In particular, we are worried that this would place an undue burden on essential workers, underserved communities, immunocompromised individuals, and on children,” the group wrote.
Also Monday, another six Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day.
Though COVID-19 continues to kill dozens of people, new cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations have declined in recent weeks.
Officials are rushing to vaccinate as many people as possible in Chicago and across the state, as vaccines have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. But vaccine demand has fallen sharply.
The majority of Chicagoans and Illinoisans are not fully vaccinated, though: Only about 4.8 million people — or 37.6 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccination shots.
Officials are looking at ways to make it easier to get the shots and ease people’s concerns. Everyone 12 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago and Illinois.
The state is helping community groups host vaccine events. Health departments are bringing vaccinations to workplaces, including Downtown office buildings. The city has said it’ll bring vaccine vans to festivals and other events.
People getting vaccinated is still the best bet for ending the pandemic, reopening businesses and having the world return to normal, officials have said. More people getting vaccinated also means there are fewer chances for variants of COVID-19 to develop and spread, which would endanger people and pose a threat to reopening efforts.
“The quickest way for life to return to normal is for more people to get vaccinated,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a news conference last week.
The most recent coronavirus victims included three people from Cook County, including a man in his 40s.
At least 22,445 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,356 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
The state reported 946 cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,366,268.
Across Illinois, 61,275 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 10,407,841 vaccine doses of the 12,893,335 provided to them.
City data shows 2,242,967 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans in the city, and 2,392,697 doses have been administered in the city overall. About 48 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot, while 37.5 percent have completed their vaccination. Among Chicagoans 65 and older, about 68.6 percent have gotten at least one dose, while 59 percent have finished their vaccination.
Illinois’ seven-day positivity held at 2.4 percent Monday with 33,148 tests reported. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.
Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, held at 2.9 percent Monday.
As of Sunday night, 1,512 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 398 people in the ICU and 220 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, no deaths and 208 confirmed cases were reported since Sunday. There have been at least 5,281 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 281,635 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of seven deaths per day, increased from six per day the week prior.
An average of 323 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 29 percent decrease from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen 9 percent since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 3.4 percent, down from 4.2 percent the week before.
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