CHICAGO — Masks will once again be required for people when they’re indoors in public in Chicago starting Friday.
Officials hope the requirement will help slow the latest surge of coronavirus cases, which has been fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. The city’s seen a significant spike in the number of people getting sick — and, in recent weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have gone up.
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said getting vaccinated is the best way people can protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 — but wearing a mask also helps.
“I do think masks are making a difference,” Arwady said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the mandate.
Here’s what you need to know:
Where Do You Have To Wear Masks?
People must wear masks when indoors in public spaces, including in bars, restaurants, gyms, private clubs and in common areas in condo and apartment buildings, according to the city’s health department.
Under federal rules, masks are required when on public transportation and in health care settings, schools and correctional and congregate settings, like nursing homes and prisons.
Masks are not required in outdoor public settings under the city’s rules, but businesses can set their own rules for their properties. The city does recommend unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings.
Where Can You Remove Your Mask?
Masks can be removed when a person is actively eating or drinking at bars and restaurants, and they can be taken off for things that require their removal, like beard shaves and facials.
People working in settings not open to the public and who can remain distant from coworkers — like those in office cubicles — can also remove their masks, according to the city’s policy.
And the masks are not required when in outdoor settings, like patios, said Ken Meyer, acting commissioner of the city’s business department.
Who Is Required To Wear Masks?
All Chicagoans 2 and older are required to wear masks when indoors in public spaces.
Do Vaccinated People Have To Wear Masks?
Yes, vaccinated people are required to wear masks.
The vaccines have been shown to largely prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19, but vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections do still have the potential to be contagious to those around them — which is why masks are needed for them, too, Arwady said during a Thursday livestream.
Why Do You Have To Wear A Mask?
Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 and can protect the wearer from getting or spreading the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Chicago Department of Public Health brought back the mask mandate because COVID-19 cases are surging in Chicago and officials want to slow the spread. They hope to prevent a larger surge of COVID-19 that could overwhelm hospitals and lead to more people dying.
When Will The Mask Mandate End?
The city has brought back the mandate mandate because Chicago is averaging more than 400 new cases per day. Once Chicago consistently drops below the 400-case marker, officials will look at ending the mandate, Arwady said at Tuesday’s news conference.
Chicago will need to stay below the 400 marker for several weeks before the mandate is removed because officials will need to ensure the Delta surge is ending, Arwady said.
Arwady also said she thinks Chicago will be going through the Delta surge for at least the next three weeks and possibly for a month or two.
“Please know, these masks are not forever; they’re to get us through Delta. And they do help protect everybody,” Arwady said Thursday.
Are Other Restrictions Coming?
Arwady said she does not anticipate further restrictions — like capacity limits for businesses — at this time.
But more restrictions and safety measures could return if Chicago starts seeing an average of more than 800 cases per day or if other metrics, like the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, look “problematic,” she said Tuesday.
“If we start to see increases particularly in those severe outcomes, we probably would need to make some more limits,” Arwady said.
• In Illinois, about 6.6 million people of all ages — or 52.23 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.
• Across the state, 36,487 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.
• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 13,718,714 vaccine doses of the 15,601,785 provided to them.
• City data shows more than 1.46 million Chicagoans — or 54.4 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 59.8 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.
COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.
• Fourteen Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Wednesday.
• At least 23,699 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,498 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
• The state reported 3,180 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,477,465.
• Since Wednesday, 75,480 tests were reported statewide. In all, 27,981,948 tests have been reported in Illinois.
• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 5.2 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 5.3 percent Wednesday.
• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 6.2 percent. It was at 6.1 percent Wednesday.
• As of Wednesday night, 449 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 220 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.
• In Chicago, three deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,574 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than two deaths per day, unchanged from the week prior.
• Chicago has had 422 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 297,510 confirmed cases. An average of 456 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 25 percent increase from the week prior.
• At the same time, testing has decreased 1 percent since a week ago.
• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.6 percent, up from 3.8 percent the week prior.
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