Illinois, Cook County and Chicago are expected to lift mask mandates and, for the county and city, vaccine mandates in the coming days, but where will you still need to wear one and how are businesses responding to the decision?
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
1 State Removed From Chicago Travel Advisory, More Could Follow Next Week
For the first time this year, the entire U.S. is not on Chicago's travel advisory.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
The city announced Wednesday that one state had been removed from its warning list and six other states or territories could soon follow.
Maryland was removed from the city's list this week, leaving 48 states and four territories still on the advisory. But health officials said three states and three territories could join Maryland, if they stay below the threshold for another week.
Read more here.
Businesses Express Relief, Others to Keep Precautions in Place When Chicago Mandates Lift
With Chicago set to lift its vaccine and mask mandates in many locations next week, some businesses say they are relieved, while others have announced plans to continue with COVID precautions despite the city's plans.
At Artango Restaurant in Lincoln Square, the owners and customers alike were delighted with Tuesday’s news that the city will remove most of its COVID restrictions on Feb. 28.
“We are really happy about it,” Javier Lopinto said. “After two years, we are ready to take it out and show our smiles and faces. We’re really happy.”
Meanwhile, Broadway in Chicago, and the League of Chicago Theatres, announced plans to continue with masking and vaccination requirements for audiences.
Read more here.
Mask Melee in Illinois House Sparks Profanity, Protests, Penalties — and An Apology
Tensions over COVID-19 mask mandates festered in the Illinois House on Tuesday as a northwest suburban Republican publicly apologized for confronting a Democratic colleague last week after a heated debate — a finger-pointing profane encounter that the Democrat said left her fearing for her safety.
“When I was being confronted by my colleague and what my colleague said to me, in that moment I was triggered,” state Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, told legislators on Tuesday. “I was scared. I felt unprotected. And I was shocked that this even transpired.”
The episode last Thursday came after Collins sponsored a resolution that resulted in nine Republicans being voted off the House floor for flouting chamber rules that require face coverings.
Read more here.
Chicago Public Schools Will Keep Mask Mandates in Place, Officials Say
While the city will roll back its mask mandates in coming days, Chicago Public Schools says that it will keep its requirements in place for at least the time-being.
According to a statement from CPS, the requirements are being kept in place to help “preserve in-person teaching,” and to keep students and educators safe.
“We have made great progress in recent weeks against this virus, and we do not want to jeopardize that progress by moving too quickly,” a spokesperson said. “We look forward to the day when we can be mask-optional at CPS, but we still need to get more students vaccinated across our district, and we still need to work with our public health and labor partners on the best way to preserve a safe in-person learning environment for all.”
Read more here.
Suburban Cook County to Drop Mask, Proof-of-Vaccine Mandates Later This Month
Following the lead of the state of Illinois and city of Chicago, health officials in suburban Cook County say that they will drop their mask mandate and their proof-of-vaccination requirement at the end of the month.
According to an email from the Cook County Department of Public Health, those requirements will both end on Feb. 28, the same day that they are set to expire in the city of Chicago and in the state of Illinois.
“We are glad to be able to move with the rest of the state to lift these measures,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, CCDPH’s Senior Medical Officer, said in a statement. “We thank the residents for their cooperation, and the suburban Cook County business community for their support and compliance.”
Officials say they will still recommend that individuals wear masks in crowded indoor settings.
Mayor Lightfoot Says She Will Continue to Wear Mask Despite City Removing Indoor Mandate
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she will continue wearing a face covering, at least "in the short term," despite city officials announcing the indoor mask mandate will be lifted next week.
"That's my personal choice. You know, I was one of the people that caught COVID during this omicron surge," Lightfoot said. "And while I had a mild case, I don't want to put myself at risk. So, I'm going to, particularly in restaurants where I have no idea knowing whether or not the people that are sitting in and around me are vaccinated."
Chicago COVID Mask Mandate: When It Will End, and What We Know as Mitigations Roll Back
While the state of Illinois had already targeted the end of February as the rollback date for its mask mandates in indoor spaces, the city of Chicago has now announced that it too will follow that same schedule to wrap up the month.
Chicago to Lift Indoor Mask, Vaccine Mandates Next Week in Certain Public Locations: Officials
In line with the state of Illinois, Chicago will lift its indoor mask mandate early next week in certain public locations, as long as coronavirus metrics continue on a downward trend, officials announced Tuesday.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press conference that the mask mandate, as well as the city's vaccine requirement, will end Feb. 28 at a number of spots across the city, citing a drop in key COVID-19 metrics.
“Based on key data, it looks as if the worst of the Omicron surge is behind us and we will be able to safely remove these emergency measures instituted to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Lightfoot said.
According to Lightfoot, masks will continue to be required in health care settings, on public transit and in other congregate settings, per federal mandates and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read more here.