Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to unveil a plan Wednesday to drop the state’s indoor mask mandate over the course of several weeks, sources tell NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue a downward trend.
According to sources with knowledge of the announcement, the governor will announced a phased-plan to drop the indoor mask mandate in most settings, but that plan will not include a repeal of the mask mandate in public schools.
It is not known when the mandate will be fully removed, but sources tell NBC 5 that the plan is to have the mandate dropped before March 1.
The governor will give the update at 2 p.m. Wednesday from Chicago.
At one point, the state was averaging more than 32,000 cases per day because of the omicron COVID variant. In less than a month, that number has plummeted to an average of 5,825 cases per day, a level not seen since the omicron surge began.
The governor said that hospitalization reductions would be key to removing the mandate, and after peaking at more than 7,300 COVID hospitalizations, there are now fewer than 3,000 patients currently COVID-positive in Illinois hospitals.
Sources tell NBC 5 that Pritzker is hoping to give schools more time before removing their mask mandates.
That development comes as Pritzker continues to fight a legal challenge to his mask mandate for Illinois schools. A temporary restraining order was issued last week by a judge in Sangamon County that prohibited certain school districts from enforcing the requirement.
Pritzker said that he planned to appeal the ruling, calling it “out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis.”