What to Know Before Chicago, Illinois Mask Mandates Are Lifted Monday

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Both Illinois and Chicago are in their final weekend of mask mandates and other COVID-19 regulations before restrictions will be widely lifted Monday.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance easing restrictions on masks while indoors across the nation.

Here's what we know so far:

When will the mask mandate be lifted in Illinois?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to lift Illinois' indoor mask mandate, with the exception of in schools, by Monday if state COVID metrics continue to decline.

Noting that the state is "seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began," Pritzker said if trends continue as expected, "then on Monday, Feb. 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the State of Illinois."

What still needs to happen for the mask mandate to be lifted?

The governor noted that metrics must continue to decline in the weeks leading up to Feb. 28.

As of Friday, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on a generally downward trend, based on data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

What about Chicago?

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.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press conference that the mask mandate, as well as the city's vaccine requirement, will end Monday at a number of spots across the city, citing a drop in key COVID metrics.

In Chicago, 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 CDC, but with a big announcement from the CDC in store, it remains unclear if the city's guidance will soon change.

Are there still locations that will require masks?

There is one important caveat to the state's and city's plans.

"I want to be clear: Many local jurisdictions, businesses and organizations have their own mask requirements and other mitigations that must be respected," Pritzker said. "Having stricter mitigations than the state requirements is something that must be adhered to. Doing what’s right in your private business or for your local communities is encouraged. Whether you’re a business, a township, a venue, a place of worship or a city – to name just a few examples – protecting your patrons and visitors is no doubt a high priority. Masks continue to be a very effective way to keep your establishment from experiencing an outbreak or spreading the disease."

Masks will also still be required under certain federal guidelines.

Illinois will lift its indoor mask mandate beginning in late February, with the exception of schools, should COVID-19 metrics continue to decline, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced Wednesday.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reminded residents that masks remain necessary in certain places and situations, including for public transportation, inside federal buildings and in parts of long-term care facilities.

"While masks will no longer be required and most indoor locations beginning Monday, Feb. 28 I want to be clear that they are still highly recommended," she said.

According to the governor's office, Illinois will continue to require masks in the following settings:

What about schools?

New guidance released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advised people, including schoolchildren, to wear masks where the risk of COVID is high.

That's the situation in about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans live.

In response to the new guidance, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that the state of Illinois will remove the school mask mandate, effective Monday, noting that the face covering requirement is only needed in areas of "high transmission" per federal officials.

"We will recommend that all that all school districts follow the CDC guidance and will update our existing guidance in coming days," the governor said in a statement.

Prior to Pritzker's announcement, Chicago Public Schools said will keep face coverings in schools, district officials announced in response the CDC eased restrictions surrounding masks.

In a letter to parents and students, CPS said will continue to require masks and other COVID requirements in the classroom "to maintain health and safety measures."

"We all look forward to the day when masks are no longer necessary in schools, and we plan to work with our labor and public health partners on the best way to preserve a safe learning environment for all. For now, though, we need to remember that school buildings are not like other indoor settings," CPS said in a letter.

Must you still wear masks on public transportation?

The new recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations. The CDC guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules.

The agency also said people with COVID symptoms or who test positive shouldn’t stop wearing masks.

The Chicago Transit Authority reminded travelers Saturday that masks are still required on public buses and trains, as well as within the station, based on the latest CDC guidance.

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