While the state of Illinois plans to remove its indoor mask mandates in the coming weeks, it isn't known how long the city of Chicago will retain its proof-of-COVID-vaccination requirements.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state plans to end its mask mandate for most indoor spaces by Feb. 28, with schools and health care facilities following suit at a later date.
In an email following the announcement, city officials said that they anticipate being in a similar position to remove their mask mandate by the end of the month.
"We are pleased with the progress that the city is making coming out of the omicron surge, and are encouraged by the state's reported plan to lift its mask mandate later this month," officials said. "If we as a city continue to see declines in these leading COVID metrics, we too should be in a position to lift restrictions at that time."
While the city has announced that it will follow the state’s lead on the mask mandate, what remains unclear is the fate of the proof-of-vaccination mandate, which has been in effect in Chicago since the beginning of the year.
In a press conference last week, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that she could see a scenario where the city drops the vaccine requirement in the near future.
“If we continue to see drops (in COVID metrics) like we’ve been dropping, it would not be that long from now, I would think,” Arwady said in a Feb. 3 press conference.
Cases in the city of Chicago have dropped considerably in recent weeks, falling by 47% in just the last week alone. The city is still seeing 20.7 new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents per day, but they are quickly approaching the 15 cases per 100,000 residents plateau that officials have pointed to as a goal to achieve before withdrawing mitigations.
Hospitalizations are also down dramatically in the city, declining by 46% in the last week, and the city’s positivity rate has dropped to 2.9%, the lowest of any health care region in the state of Illinois.
According to data released by CDPH, the city is now in a "lower transmission" category for its positivity rate, and but is still in a "substantial transmission" category for its hospitalization rate and ICU bed occupancy rate.
Both metrics, along with the number of new COVID cases per day, are on steady declines, according to officials.
While it’s unclear when Chicago will roll its mitigations back, the governor said that cities and businesses will be permitted to keep any mandates in place that they wish.
“Many local jurisdictions, businesses and organizations have their own mask requirements and other mitigations that must be respected,” he said. “Doing what is right in your private business or for your local communities is encouraged. Whether you’re a business, a township, a venue, a place of worship or a city, just to name a few examples, protecting your patrons and visitors is no doubt a high priority.”