Chicago will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated people in most settings, but as businesses continue to sort out what that will look like, the city said mask requirements are still advised.
The city's new guidelines no longer mandate face coverings for fully vaccinated people, except for in certain places like schools and health care settings and on public transportation. Businesses and buildings, however, will have the option of still requiring them.
The city encouraged businesses unable to check vaccination status to continue requiring masks until capacity limits are lifted and the city reaches Phase 5 of its reopening plan.
"We strongly advise businesses to verify that individuals are fully vaccinated in order to follow the new mask guidance," the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a release. "However, we know that many businesses and other settings may not have the capacity to check people’s vaccination status. Therefore, we continue to strongly advise—though not require—masking policies for all indoor settings in Chicago until COVID-19 capacity restrictions are lifted and we enter phase five."
City buildings will continue requiring masks "at least until COVID-19 capacity restrictions are lifted," the department said.
CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady acknowledged Tuesday that many businesses may not have the ability to track vaccination status.
"That's why we are putting the advisory in place that, at least right now, while capacity limits remain in place, our advice is that settings that don't want to check vaccine would continue to have masks in indoor settings," Arwady said. "Again it's not a mandate, it's an advisory, but part of the reason the city of Chicago buildings are continuing this, is that I feel like when 38% of Chicago is fully vaccinated, we are still making a lot of progress there and I want to make sure while we continue to make that progress that we're making settings as safe as they can be. Also of course, we have a lot of employees returning to work, and we're hearing people wanting to feel confident about that. So if you, if any business, does the work of ensuring that folks are vaccinated, no problem. You don't need to do it, but if you're not going to do the work of wanting to enforce that vaccine status our advisory at this point would be to continue your indoor masking policy."
The city noted that masks will still be required for all residents, regardless of vaccination status, in health care settings, schools, correctional/congregate settings, and on public transportation.
For unvaccinated individuals, masks remain required in most settings.
"If you are not fully vaccinated, you need to continue to wear your mask in all indoor settings," CDPH stated.
Social distancing requirements already in place under the city's Bridge Phase also remain in effect, officials noted.
"Please be kind," Arwady said. "Regardless of mandates, we expect many Chicagoans to continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons, even after they're vaccinated. Even as mandates and advisories fade, someone might be immunocompromised, someone might have a family member who's immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated. CDPH absolutely supports ongoing mask wearing for personal or family risks, even in the setting of vaccination."
Arwady added that while there will not be a "vaccine passport" requirement in the city for public spaces, businesses can request proof of vaccination.
"Part of this is that there still is a lot of work happening around some of the different apps and ways to be able to verify vaccination. Somebody's vaccine card is good," Arwady said. "If you have your CDC vaccine card - you have a picture, you have a photocopy of your vaccination card, you have a printout from your doctor's office, etc.- right at the moment... that could be used, you know, if a restaurant or bar, business, you know, is wanting to check and wanting to take that on."
As for concerns surrounding people who may lie about their vaccination status, Arwady said additional guidance is expected this summer.
"Certainly people have their cards, but that card is linked to a registry sort of at the state level, and the state and other states have been working around ways where people want to request their vaccine status themselves to be able to have some proof of that available electronically and that's just technology that is evolving, so I don't want to speak to it," Arwady said. "For sure, one way or another, we'll have some updated information."
Chicago's update comes one day after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state's mask mandate is changing based on the new CDC guidance.
The CDC revised its guidelines on Thursday, saying that vaccinated individuals should not be required to wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings, with some exceptions.