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It’s ‘Premature’ To End Mask Mandates, Biden Says

Illinois' mask mandate is set to end Feb. 28, and Chicago health officials have laid out how they hope to lift the city's mask mandate.

A family arrives as 6th thru 8th graders return to in-person learning at Richardson Middle School in the West Lawn neighborhood on March 8, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — President Joe Biden said moves to end indoor mask mandates is “probably premature.”

Biden, speaking in an interview NBC’s Lester Holt, urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and take steps to protect themselves and others from the virus, according to The New York Times.

The president also said it’s likely too early for governors to end mask mandates in their respective states, though he said it was a “tough call,” according to the Times.

Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that agency will continue to recommend people wear masks when indoors in public.

“Our hospitalizations are still high. Our death rates are still high,” Walensky said. “As we work toward that and as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”

Illinois and Chicago officials announced Wednesday they’ll end the state and city mask mandates at the end of February so long as COVID-19 figures continue to fall. Those mask mandates were implemented in August, when the Delta variant was driving up COVID-19 cases locally and statewide.

Such figures have fallen dramatically in recent weeks after the Omicron variant brought them to new peaks — but cases per day, hospitalizations and death still remain as high, if not higher, than when the mandates were implemented in Chicago and statewide.

Illinois’ mask mandate is set to end Feb. 28.

People will still have to wear masks in some spots, and the state will still officially recommend mask use — it’s just won’t require it.

Businesses, cities, counties and other entities can still enforce their own mask mandates.

Where masks will still be required:

  • Schools.
  • Day cares.
  • Health care facilities.
  • Congregate care facilities.
  • Public transportation, including buses, trains and airplanes.
  • Federal buildings in areas of high of substantial risk of transmission.
  • Long-term care facilities when in communal areas.
  • In businesses that privately require mask use.
  • When in municipalities, like cities or counties, that have mask mandates.

The state could keep the mask mandate in place if things change, like if there is a variant that drives up hospitalizations, officials said. And they said the mask mandate could return in the future.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is tracking four “primary community transmission and risk metrics”: COVID-19 cases diagnosed per day, test positivity, hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Once three of the four fall into the “lower transmission risk” category and stay there for at least two weeks, the city will lift restrictions, according to the health department.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8 million people — or 63.14 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 24,116 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 20,894,572 vaccine doses of the 23,448,145 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 67.9 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 75.8 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

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.

The numbers:

• Since Thursday, 224 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 32,019 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 3,979 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 14,269 cases since Thursday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,001,771.

• Since Thursday, 530,252 tests were reported statewide. In all, 53,083,826 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 3.3 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4.5 percent Thursday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 4.1 percent. It was at 5.8 percent Thursday.

• As of Sunday night, 370 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 200 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 11 deaths were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 7,112 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of 11 people dying per day, down 30 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 1,735 confirmed cases reported since Thursday. It’s had a total of 553,542 confirmed cases. An average of 511 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 47 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 16 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 2.7 percent, down from 4.1 percent a week ago.

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