In a highly-anticipated move, Illinois rescinded its mask mandate Monday, allowing residents to stop wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces.
The decision was a significant one, as it’s been nearly six months to the day since Illinois brought back its mask mandate in Aug. 2021 in response to a spike of the delta variant.
Previously, the state had lasted just over three months with a modified or eliminated mask mandate, having removed the mask requirement for vaccinated individuals in May 2021 and fully repealing all COVID mitigations in June.
The question now on the minds of many Illinoisans is a simple one: what comes next? What can we expect from COVID metrics with face coverings no longer required indoors?
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To help shed some light, here are figures from the summer of 2021, when face coverings were no longer required in Illinois.
May 18, 2021 – Illinois changes rules, removing fully-vaccinated individuals from mask mandates
June 11, 2021 – Illinois moves to Phase 5, removing all COVID mitigations
Aug. 30, 2021 – Illinois brings back mask mandate as delta surge rages
COVID Case Trends:
When the state first adjusted its mask mandate to remove fully-vaccinated individuals, Illinois was averaging 1,537 new COVID cases per day. On June 11, when the state moved to Phase Five, Illinois was down to just 381 cases per day, representing a decrease of 75.2% in less than a month.
On June 23, the state hit its lowest-ever COVID case rate, with 222 residents a day testing positive.
From that day on, increases began to slowly occur. On July 4, the state had seen its case numbers move upward to 307, but then the pace of increase began to accelerate.
On July 11, the state saw its average rise to 511, representing an increase of 66% within one week. The next week, cases rose by 52.8% to 781. Cases then rose by 58% the next week to 1,234 per day.
By the time the mask mandate had returned, the state was at 3,871 COVID cases per day.
After falling through September and into October, cases began to surge again, with the omicron variant helping to push the average number of daily cases to a staggering 32,501 on Jan. 12.
Then, even more quickly than they had risen, cases began to fall. On Monday, the state reported 1,159 daily new cases.
On May 18, 2021, the state of Illinois had 1,518 patients in hospitals who had tested positive for COVID. That number had dropped to 684 on June 11, a decrease of nearly 55% within a month.
Illinois saw its hospitalization numbers hit their lowest level on July 4, when 380 individuals were hospitalized.
That number began to slowly rise in July, increasing by nearly 90% to 721 by July 25, but then the pace began to quicken in August, and by the time the state reinstituted its mask mandate, there were 2,203 patients hospitalized.
Following a similar pattern to that of cases, hospitalizations began to decrease in September as the delta variant slowed, but more patients began seeking care in October and hospitalizations began to skyrocket, topping out at 7,380 on Jan. 12.
More than six weeks later, the state is now at 943 patients hospitalized, a decrease of 87% during that time. That hospitalization rate is nearly 38% lower than the hospital census when fully-vaccinated Illinoisans were removed from the mask mandate last May.
On May 18, 2021, the state had 405 ICU patients that were COVID-positive. By the time Phase Five began on June 11, that number had fallen to 186.
The number continued to drop through the rest of June and into early July, and by July 7, just 76 ICU patients in the entire state were COVID-positive.
Like hospitalizations, ICU admissions began to slowly climb in mid-July, and by July 28, there were 179 patients in intensive care units.
Admissions began to increase more quickly after that, and by the time the mask mandate returned, there were 527 patients in ICU’s with COVID, representing an increase of 194% in just over a month’s time.
During the omicron surge, Illinois topped out at 1,177 patients in ICU beds due to COVID. As of Monday, the state has seen an 87% decrease in ICU patient counts, with 157 such hospitalizations currently reported.