Do Children Still Need to Wear Masks Under Illinois' and Chicago's New Guidelines?

The answer is yes in many cases, officials said

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As Illinois and Chicago lift mask restrictions for fully vaccinated people in most settings, many parents are wondering what the news means for children too young to get vaccinated.

Under Illinois' new order, "any individual who is not fully vaccinated and who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering (a mask or cloth face covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance."

A spokesperson for the governor's office also confirmed that unvaccinated children should continue wearing masks in most settings.

Masks will also still be required in schools and daycares across the city and state.

But what about outside of public spaces?

Chicago's top doctor cited recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying, "when children are in indoor settings, they need to continue masking first and foremost."

"To the question of children being around people who are unmasked, my main question there: are those unmasked people vaccinated? We've already said that in settings where people are gathering if everybody is fully vaccinated - if you're at somebody's house, etc. - the risk [to] children is really very, very low in that setting," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said. "And so if all of the adults who are gathering are vaccinated, there's not a need to wear masks in that setting, including for the children."

Arwady added that parents may still want to "continue modeling masking behaviors for children," however.

"We are certainly supportive of that, especially while we're in this interim phase of getting some more folks vaccinated sort of slowly, continuing to turn the dial on reopening," she said.

Chicago announced Tuesday that it will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated people in most settings following 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.

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.

"Please be kind," 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."

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 also said unvaccinated residents should continue wearing masks in most settings and residents should continue wearing masks on public transportation, in congregate facilities, in schools and daycares and in healthcare settings, regardless of their vaccination status.

“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.”

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