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Aldermen Push For City Mask Mandate As COVID Cases Climb

"I think if, and when, we see numbers move into the high-risk territory, we may move to put a mandate in place,” Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) at City Council in February 2020.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago

Get more in-depth, daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.

CITY HALL — Some aldermen pushed the city’s public health commissioner for a mask mandate on Wednesday as Chicago continues to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady addressed aldermen in the City Council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations Wednesday during her monthly update on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Related: Arwady to update aldermen on COVID-19 response as city adds 12 states to travel advisory  

As of Wednesday, Chicago was seeing an average of 364 new cases of COVID-19 per day, representing a 39 percent increase over the past week as a vast majority of cases involve the Delta variant of the virus.  

On average 22 Chicagoans are hospitalized per day due to COVID-19, and between two and three residents are dying each day as a result of the virus.  

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) questioned why the city has not yet issued a mask mandate instead of the masking recommendation it put in place at the end of July as the average number of new COVID-19 cases surpassed 200 per day.  

“I think if, and when, we see numbers move into the high-risk territory, we may move to put a mandate in place,” Arwady said, adding the city’s decisions are based on metrics and a “stepwise” system that includes different tactics to combat spread of the virus as cases increase.   

“Why wait?” Hadden asked.  

“We’re trying to have it be based on metrics so it’s predictable for businesses which…we’ve really heard loud and clear from them that they want to know” how the city is making decisions and at what point mandates would go into effect or be lifted, “and I want to keep trying to do that,” Arwady said. 

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) agreed with Hadden that the city should impose another mask mandate in place of its current recommendation. “Let’s be proactive, not reactive,” Garza said.  

But one challenge with imposing a mandate is making sure it is enforced, Arwady said.  

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) said she rides public transportation and is seeing people riding buses and trains without masks even though public transit is one area where people are still required to wear masks.   

“It worries me we are putting that on CTA to enforce” as it “seems like a burden on CTA,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.  

Arwady said her department does not have inspectors or “people with the ability to write a ticket for that sort of thing” but her department has talked with the CTA about doing so. Additionally, there are mask dispensers at CTA stations and announcements reminding transit riders to wear masks. 

While Arwady said during her commutes on public transit, she has generally observed “people being good with masks,” the public health commissioner said she was “not pleased at all with seeing kids who were clearly going to [Lollapalooza]” not wearing masks while riding CTA.

Get more in-depth, daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.

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