People, some wearing masks, pack into Daley Plaza for the annual Christkindlmarket four days before Christmas on Dec. 21, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — The Chicago area falls into the lowest category in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines for evaluating COVID-19 risk.

The CDC rolled out its COVID-19 Community Levels guidelines Friday. It evaluates individual counties’ level of the virus based on the number of new cases in those areas and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. Counties will fall into low, medium or high categories.

Cook County — including Chicago and its suburbs — is in the low category as of Friday.

When a county is in that low level, the CDC recommends residents stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if they have symptoms. People can wear a mask at any time if they choose, but the agency recommends masks for people with symptoms of COVID-19, people who have tested positive or people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Click here to learn more about the categories.

The designation of Cook County being in the low level comes as Illinois and Chicago prepare to lift their respective mask mandates.

The statewide mask mandate will end 12:01 a.m. Monday, the Governor’s Office confirmed Friday. The city’s mask and vaccine card mandates are also set to end Monday.

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, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier this week.

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.”

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.


• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 63.63 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 16,309 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,070,546 vaccine doses of the 23,808,265 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69 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 Thursday, 74 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 32,654 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,138 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 2,074 cases since Thursday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,026,737.

• Since Thursday, 151,528 tests were reported statewide. In all, 54,338,979 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 1.8 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 2 percent Thursday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 2.4 percent. It was at 2.5 percent Thursday.

• As of Thursday night, 211 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 103 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 13 deaths were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 7,223 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than four people dying per day, down 33 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 573 confirmed cases reported since Thursday. It’s had a total of 557,086 confirmed cases. An average of 268 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 29 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 6 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 1.3 percent, down from 1.8 percent a week ago.

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