Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker re-issued a mask mandate for the state Thursday, requiring masks indoors for residents, but the new requirement doesn't begin right away.
According to the latest guidance, the mandate takes effect Monday.
The new indoor mask guidelines, similar to mandates already handed down in Cook County and Chicago, 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. "Masks work. Period."
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."
In addition, Pritzker also announced a new mandate requiring teachers, healthcare workers and higher education students to either receive the coronavirus vaccine, or to submit to weekly COVID testing through an enhanced protocols program.
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 are 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 are currently available, up from just one available on Tuesday.
Officials say 22 beds of 171 are currently available in northwest Illinois' Region 1, while 21 are avaialble in Region 3, which includes Springfield.
On Tuesday, Pritzker had warned of "significantly greater mitigations" if COVID metrics didn't begin to decline across the state.
"We're consistently looking at the menu of options that we may need to impose in order to bring down the numbers," Pritzker said during a press conference Tuesday. "I will remind you that if we are not able to bring these numbers down, if hospitals continue to fill, if the hospital beds and ICUs get full like they are in Kentucky -that's just next door to Illinois - if that happens, we're going to have to impose significantly greater mitigations."