Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state's mask mandate is changing following new guidance for fully vaccinated people from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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 said unvaccinated residents should continue wearing masks in most settings and residents should continue wearing masks on public transportation, in congregate facilities and in healthcare settings regardless of their vaccination status.
Masks will also continue to be required in schools and daycares.
“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.”
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 praised that new guidance on Monday and said he would still wear his mask in some circumstances and planned to proceed "carefully."
"I think this morning, it was the first time that I came out of my home not wearing my mask immediately. There was nobody that was standing there nearby and so I felt comfortable doing that," he said. "I am trying to be careful when I'm in large crowds. You saw that I was wearing my mask seated, I think standing at the podium, with the kind of distance that we have, It seems appropriate not to wear one, you've seen me do that before as well. And I'm going to take it, you know, gently and carefully going forward, but I do think that the CDC's guidelines are good ones and that we will follow them here in the state of Illinois."
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike echoed the need for caution.
“While the updated guidance from the CDC is welcome news, let me remind everyone that this guidance is only for those people who are fully vaccinated,” she said in a statement. “Individuals who do not have the protection afforded by one of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines should still wear a mask. While more than 64% of adults in Illinois have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, we need to increase that number. To slow down disease spread and the development of even more deadly variants, we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated.”
Pritzker again encouraged anyone who is not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and others as the masking guidance changes.
"I want to point out, especially for adults who are unvaccinated, one of the reasons that the CDC issued the rules as they did was the recognition that studies have now been done showing that if you're vaccinated, you're protected. If you're unvaccinated, you are not protected," Pritzker continued. "So I encourage people who are unvaccinated still to wear their masks, but to go get vaccinated, because I think we all want to get past this. We all would like to take off our masks but we do need those who are unvaccinated to go get vaccinated, and they can do that right now, today, it is available. You don't need to sign up for an appointment if you don't want to. You can show up at a number of sites and just get vaccinated."
On whether or not people should carry their vaccination cards or if there will be any sort of requirement for people to prove that they are vaccinated in order to not wear a mask, Pritzker said the responsibility will fall on individuals and private businesses.
"That's gonna be up to private businesses and to individuals if they want to carry something like that with them. The state will provide the data and information for private solutions for that if people want to use something like that, there's no requirement, however," Pritzker said. "We are relying upon people to do the right thing, we are relying upon people to recognize that they don't want to infect other unvaccinated people and they don't themselves want to get sick and so it's important for people to protect themselves and I think there's a real motivation for people to go get vaccinated as well."
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that she wants "clarification" from the CDC on the new guidance, calling the rollout "abrupt."
Lightfoot appeared on MSNBC Monday morning and was asked, "Should people in Chicago wear masks or not?"
"Well, I think we’ve gotta get some clarification from the CDC. The rollout obviously is, the reporting has been, was a bit abrupt, and I think they’ve got a lot of clarification that they need to do," Lightfoot said. "I know for me personally, I’m gonna continue to wear a mask in public and I’m gonna encourage others to do so."
"We’ve gotta make sure that people are continuing to follow the public health guidance that has gotten us this far and masks I think are a big and important part of that," Lightfoot said. "To say, well, if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask, that’s great, but what about all the other people that are out there that aren’t vaccinated and there’s no way to know that? So I think for the time being, most people are gonna continue to wear a mask outside, outside their homes, and I think that’s smart."
When asked what Chicago is telling businesses about the new guidance, Lightfoot said she's promoting vaccinations while keeping in mind that the city is not "out of the woods."
"I’m telling businesses a couple things: one, get your employees vaccinated, and we're doing everything we can to provide support to those businesses," Lightfoot said, noting a new series of vaccination events at office buildings downtown.
"We're also continuing to make sure that we are social distancing. Even as we open up, we've got good news happening here in Chicago, but by no means, whether it's Chicago or anyplace else in the country, are we out of the woods," she continued. "The virus is still here, the virus is still real, we're still seeing deaths every day, so we can't afford to feel like the virus is gone and suddenly we can just go back to 2019. That's just not gonna happen."
The Chicago Department of Public Health said last week that it was "supportive of this recommendation allowing people who are fully vaccinated to participate in most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing."
"We will work with the state and our industry and business partners to review and update guidance for specific settings, and expect to broadly follow this new CDC guidance across most settings. This does not, however, mean that masks are going away," CDPH's statement reads.