Chicago will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated people in most settings following similar changes from the state of Illinois and new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"If you are not fully vaccinated, you need to continue to wear your mask in all indoor settings," the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a release Tuesday.
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.
City buildings will also continue requiring masks "at least until COVID-19 capacity restrictions are lifted."
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," CDPH's release stated. "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."
Social distancing requirements already in place under the city's Bridge Phase remain in effect, city officials noted.
"Please be kind," CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference. "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.
Pritzker said he is issuing an updated executive order that will remove the mask requirement for fully vaccinated residents in most settings and the Illinois Department of Public Health "is rescinding emergency rules in the Control of Communicable Disease Code that enforce masking and distancing for vaccinated people in business settings."
Officials said unvaccinated residents should continue wearing masks in most settings and residents should continue wearing masks on public transportation, in congregate facilities and in healthcare settings regardless of their vaccination status.
Masks will also continue to be required in schools and daycares.
“Getting vaccinated is the ultimate protection from COVID-19 and the quickest ticket back to normal life,” Pritzker said in a statement. “With public health experts now saying fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, I’m pleased to follow the science and align Illinois’ policies with the CDC’s guidance. I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn’t over yet.”
On Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wanted "clarification" from the CDC on its new mask guidelines, calling the rollout "abrupt" as she said she personally would continue to wear a mask in public.
"Well, I think we’ve got to get some clarification from the CDC. The rollout obviously is, the reporting has been, was a bit abrupt, and I think they’ve got a lot of clarification that they need to do," Lightfoot said during an interview on MSNBC. "I know for me personally, I’m gonna continue to wear a mask in public and I’m gonna encourage others to do so."
"We’ve got to make sure that people are continuing to follow the public health guidance that has gotten us this far and masks I think are a big and important part of that," Lightfoot said. "To say, well, if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask, that’s great, but what about all the other people that are out there that aren’t vaccinated and there’s no way to know that? So I think for the time being, most people are gonna continue to wear a mask outside, outside their homes, and I think that’s smart."
When asked Monday, Lightfoot said the new mask guidance doesn't change Chicago's goal of fully reopening the city with no capacity limits by the Fourth of July.
"It doesn’t change the timetable, but I think we’ve got to clarify for people what we need to do to get to that point," Lightfoot said. "And again, we still have a long way to go. We’ve got to bring down, or continue to bring down our case rates. Our percent positivity is heading in the right direction, but we’ve still got to get more people vaccinated, the long and short of it."