While the city of Chicago has officially announced that it will roll back its requirement for masks in most indoor settings on Feb. 28, officials say that a decision on whether to require facial coverings in Chicago Public Schools has not yet been reached.
The decision on requiring masks in schools was conspicuously absent from a press release put out by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health on Tuesday. While the state of Illinois had initially planned to keep the mask requirement in place in schools, Chicago officials say that no such decision has yet been made when it comes to CPS.
“They are in the process of engaging with their stakeholders internally and externally, and I would expect an announcement from them in the coming days,” Lightfoot said during a Tuesday press briefing. “So for now, CPS students must wear masks.”
That decision-making process comes amid a heated legal battle in the state over whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker has the authority to mandate masks in public schools. The governor has suffered a series of legal setbacks in that regard, with an appeals court ruling that he does not have the authority to impose the mandate, but he has continued to argue that he does, and has appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.
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Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools officials have continued to require masks in the district for both teachers and students, and Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of CDPH, says that the discussions surrounding that mandate remain ongoing.
“There’s a lot of conversations not just with CPS, but with schools across the city and across the country,” she said. “We do anticipate some newer CDC guidance coming shortly.”
Arwady said that the district is still working hard to bump up vaccination rates among both teachers and students, with children age 5 and older now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The city’s mask mandate in indoor spaces will expire on Feb. 28, as will its requirement that patrons of indoor businesses like restaurants and bars show proof-of-vaccination when entering.
Some businesses could continue to keep those requirements in place, according to officials.