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Chicago Could Soon Bring Back Mask Advisory As COVID Cases Rise — But It Won’t Require Them Yet

The city's leaders urged Chicagoans to wear a mask in the coming weeks — but they won't require it for now.

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 — COVID-19 cases are ticking up in Chicago, and the city could enter the High risk category as early as this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

Lightfoot and other officials held a news conference Thursday where they urged Chicagoans to take precautions as they gather for the holiday, as the city is facing a “triple-demic” with COVID-19, flu and respiratory virus cases rising. Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said people taking safety precautions now can prevent the city’s health care system from being overwhelmed.

“We know that the holidays are a time that makes our COVID rates go up,” Arwady said. “We have seen that regularly. … I expect to see a similar increase in this time period.”

Lightfoot and Arwady urged Chicagoans to wear masks in public settings and when traveling, with Arwady saying she happy she wore a mask to a recent musical because another attendee was coughing.

But they don’t plan to bring the city’s mask mandate back yet, they said.

Lightfoot said the city could enter the High risk category for COVID-19 as soon as this week or next as cases tick up, and Arwady said she also expects the city to soon enter that category.

When that happens, Chicago will implement its mask advisory, recommending — but not requiring — Chicagoans to wear masks indoors in public.

The city would only bring back its mask mandate if the health care system begins to become overwhelmed, like if cases rapidly rise and more than 10 percent of local hospital beds are taken up by COVID-19 patients. This could make it difficult for hospitals to care for people experiencing other health emergencies, such as people having heart attacks or who have been in car crashes, Arwady said.

But Arwady said she hopes Chicagoans will do the “right thing” and wear a mask as recommended before that happens.