Illinois' reinstated mask mandate takes effect Monday, requiring residents over the age of 2 to wear face coverings in indoor settings.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker re-issued the mask mandate for the state Thursday, saying the state is "running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds."
The new indoor mask guidelines will require facial coverings in indoor settings, regardless of COVID vaccination status.
"Illinois will join several other states that have reinstituted statewide indoor mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status, effective on Monday," Pritzker said in his announcement. "Masks work. Period."
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He noted that while face coverings are not required outdoors, "masks are strongly encouraged in crowded outdoor settings like festivals and concerts as well as for activities that require close contact with people who are not vaccinated."
The governor said the mandate applies in "in all indoor settings," but offered few other details.
The state's mandate appears to mirror those already in place in both Chicago and Cook County.
In those mandates, masks are required:
- In all indoor public settings, including in bars, restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, private clubs and in common areas of condo and multi-residential buildings.
- On public transportation
- In health care settings
- In schools
- In correctional and congregate settings
In addition, Pritzker also announced last week a new mandate requiring teachers, healthcare workers and higher education students to either receive the coronavirus vaccine, which takes effect this weekend.
Vaccines will be required for P-12 teachers and staff, higher education personnel, higher education students, and healthcare workers in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities and physician's offices, Pritzker said, adding the mandate takes effect Sept. 5. Those who remain unvaccinated will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, but may require additional testing in some cases like outbreaks.
Pritzker said the delta variant "is increasingly causing concern for our hospital capacity in communities across Illinois."
"Let's be clear, the vaccination is the most effective tool we have for keeping people out of the hospital and preventing deaths," he said.
Calling it "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" Pritzker said "you don't need to be an epidemiologist to understand what's going on here."
As of Wednesday, all 102 of Illinois' counties were experiencing "high transmission" levels of COVID-19, meaning that the counties are either seeing 100 or more new cases of COVID per 100,000 residents each week, or are seeing positivity rates of greater than 10% on all COVID tests.
Under those parameters, residents in those counties are recommended to wear masks by the CDC, but Pritzker's order will go one step further, requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
The decision is also driven by rapid increases in the number of patients requiring ICU beds while battling COVID. In Region 5, located in southern Illinois and comprised of 20 counties, just six of the region's 86 ICU beds were available Wednesday, up from just one available on Tuesday.
“Unlike the wave of COVID-19 we saw earlier this Spring, we’re now seeing our hospital resources stretched thin with some areas of Illinois reduced to only a handful of available ICU beds,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “The vast majority of hospitalizations, as well as cases and deaths, are among those who are unvaccinated. This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We have safe, proven, and effective tools to turn the tide and end this pandemic. But until more people are vaccinated, masks are the order of the day and will help us slow the spread of the virus.”