CHICAGO — A statewide mask mandate is returning to Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday.
The mandate will require all Illinoisans 2 and older to wear masks when indoors in all public places starting Monday. The requirement applies even to people who are fully vaccinated.
And all K-12, health care workers and higher education employees and students must get at least the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 5 or get tested at least once per week, the governor announced.
Chicago’s mask mandate returned Friday, and suburban Cook County put one in place Monday. Under federal rules, masks are also required when on public transportation and in health care settings, schools and correctional and congregate settings, like nursing homes and prisons.
Officials hope the mask and vaccine mandates can slow down the spread of coronavirus, which has surged in recent weeks due to the highly contagious Delta variant.
Illinois’ health care system is at risk of being overwhelmed in certain regions due to the quick spread of COVID-19, especially among unvaccinated people, Pritzker said.
“People are dying who don’t have to die,” Pritzker said.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said downstate and central Illinois are seeing their ICU beds fill up — and they’re also the least-vaccinated parts of the state. Wearing a mask and getting shots could protect individuals and their communities, she said.
“Wearing a mask continues to be one of the simplest, cheapest ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Ezike said. “The bottom line is masks are effective. Vaccines are effective.
“But until more people are vaccinated, we need to take the steps to protect our health care workers, protect our hospital resources and protect our most vulnerable” people.
The city and state loosened their COVID-19 mitigation measures this spring as people got vaccinated and cases, hospitalizations and deaths fell. The state’s mask mandate, which had been in place since shortly after the pandemic’s start, was removed.
But Delta has brought on another wave of cases, and hospitalizations and deaths have begun to rise.
Pritzker said Tuesday the state could bring back more safety measures if the surge worsens.
In the past, the state used capacity limits at businesses, social distancing rules and other measures to try to slow the virus’s spread.
The city is looking at other safety measures, too. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday all city workers must get vaccinated by Oct. 15. Chicago Public Schools workers have a similar deadline.
Lightfoot’s also said other safety restrictions could return.
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 last week.
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.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: