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Chicago’s Mask, Vaccine Card Mandates Will End Feb. 28

The city is ending its mandates early to line up with Illinois' end to its statewide mask requirement.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot puts her mask on at a City Hall press conference on Dec. 21, 2021, where it was announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccine will be required for Chicago bars, restaurants and gyms starting Jan. 3.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city’s mask and vaccine card mandates will end Monday.

The changes come after weeks of COVID-19 numbers coming down from the Omicron surge. The city’s end to its mandates will line up with the state, which plans to lift its own mask mandate Monday.

“It’s important for us to recognize this moment for what it is: a huge step forward in our effort to overcome COVID-19,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Tuesday news conference.

Masks will still be required in some spots, like health care facilities and public transportation. And individuals may continue to keep wearing masks, just as venues can require them, Lightfoot said.

“Folks, be kind and conscious of your fellow neighbors and any decisions they make for themselves to feel comfortable and protected,” Lightfoot said.

Chicago and Illinois implemented mask mandates in August when the Delta variant led to a surge. Then, the Omicron wave — which started in late November — drove cases, hospitalizations and deaths to record numbers. To combat the surge, city officials began requiring restaurants, bars and other venues to check people for proof of vaccination in early January.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the vaccine card mandate led to a bump in Chicagoans getting vaccinated against the virus. But the main focus of the mandate was always to protect Chicago’s health care system from being overwhelmed, which is why it’s appropriate for it to end, she said.

Still, Lightfoot said she’ll continue to wear a mask when indoors in public for the time being, as she doesn’t want to put herself at risk.

“Particularly in a restaurant setting, where I have no idea now whether the people sitting around me are vaccinated, I’ll be wearing a mask,” Lightfoot said.

Arwady said officials expect to see a potential small rise in cases when lifting mitigations, but they don’t make those changes until the city is in a place where it could handle such a bump. Lightfoot said they will bring back mitigations if it becomes necessary in the future.

“I feel very confident that we are on the right path, that we are moving in the right direction,” Lightfoot said. “But make no mistake: I will not hesitate, nor will Dr. Arwady” to take steps to protect lives.

And Arwady and Lightfoot urged people to get vaccinated, saying it’s the most important way to protect yourself and others.

“The answer to all questions regarding the pandemic is vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,” Lightfoot said. “It will make us safer if more people are vaccinated.”

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Feb. 9 Illinois’ statewide mask mandate is set to end Feb. 28, so long as the state’s COVID-19 metrics continue to fall. Chicago’s health department then announced it would also aim to end the city’s mask and vaccine card mandates by the end of the month, though Chicago would have to hit three out of four milestones for at least two weeks for that to happen.

The city did not report meeting that requirement until Monday evening — but decided to go ahead with lifting the mandates by next week.

Where masks will still be required:

  • Chicago public 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.

Here are the city’s goals for ending its mandates and where Chicago stands with each:

• Cases: Chicago must report an average of 199 cases or fewer per day. It’s reporting an average of 283.

• Positivity rate: Chicago’s positivity rate must be at 4.9 percent or lower. It’s at 1.5 percent.

• Hospital beds: Chicago must have an average of 249 or fewer beds occupied by COVID-19 patients per day. It’s reporting an average of 239 per day.

 ICU beds: Chicago must have an average of 99 or fewer ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients per day. It’s reporting an average of 80 per day.

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Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8 million people — or 63.51 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 18,543 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,024,696 vaccine doses of the 23,734,525 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 68.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 76.5 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 Friday, 132 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 32,431 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,085 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 6,242 cases since Friday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,019,951.

• Since Friday, 346,899 tests were reported statewide. In all, 53,968,881 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 2 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 2.4 percent Friday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 2.6 percent. It was at 3.1 percent Friday.

• As of Monday night, 235 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 136 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 14 deaths were reported since Friday. There have been at least 7,177 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than four people dying per day, down 51 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 944 confirmed cases reported since Friday. It’s had a total of 555,774 confirmed cases. An average of 283 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 37 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is up 13 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 1.5 percent, down from 2 percent a week ago.

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