JB Pritzker

Debates Rage Over Mask, Proof-of-Vax Mandates Amid Metric Declines and Court Challenges

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Chicago is not on track to get rid of its mask and vaccine mandates when the state is expected to lift its mask mandate on Feb. 28, but the city may go ahead and do so anyway if metrics are still trending in the right direction.

The decision could be made in order to reduce confusion for both business owners and customers, with city officials hoping to keep their policies in lockstep with the state whenever possible.

According to city officials, Chicago must be within “lower transmission” rates of COVID in at least three of a group of four key metrics before it can move forward with removing its mask and proof-of-vaccination requirements. Those metrics include case numbers, positivity rates, hospital bed usage and ICU bed usage.

Although the plan is to allow those metrics to fall within the “lower transmission” range, and to remain there for at least two weeks, Dr. Allison Arwady says that the Chicago Department of Public Health would consider moving forward with a rollback of mitigations sooner if the data looks promising enough.

“If we are not able to move forward on the 28th, I think it would not be very long after that,” she said. “If it’s just a difference of a few days, I don’t think it’s worth the potential confusion.”

That discussion comes amid the ongoing dispute over mask requirements in public schools, which has been the subject of a slew of litigation and debate in recent months. On Tuesday, a bipartisan committee of state lawmakers voted not to extend Governor J.B. Pritzker’s mask requirement in schools.

While Republicans led the charge on the decision, some Democrats crossed over to join the opposition to the extension of the mandate.

“It’s great news. Great news for you, your ability to manage your children and manage your families the way in which you want,” Republican Senate Leader Dan McConchie said.

A spokesperson for Pritzker said that the JCAR vote was made as part of a decision to “await a ruling from the appellate court” on the issue of mask mandates in schools.

That ruling has been appealed by the Pritzker administration. He said that the case was “badly decided” and that the ruling caused serious issues around the state.

In response to the JCAR vote, the appellate court that is hearing Pritzker’s appeal asked that both sides present their stances on how the vote impacts the disposition of the case.

A decision by the appeals court on the school mask mandate is expected by Thursday.

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