With one week left before Illinois is expected to lift its mask mandate, Chicago officials have yet to say if the city will in fact be joining the state. New guidance is expected this week, however.
As Illinois aims to lift its mask mandate by Feb. 28, a similar decision could be announced soon in Chicago, although the city is taking a different approach and not providing a specific timeline for such a move.
Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is “not there yet” when speaking on plans to eliminate mask requirements, but the city's top doctor has said additional guidance was expected this week. When exactly the update will come, however, remains unclear.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is relying on a set of metrics to determine when restrictions can be lifted, and three out of four key metrics must be met to move forward with easing restrictions.
The metrics include test positivity, hospital beds occupied by COVID patients, ICU beds occupied by COVID patients and daily COVID cases. The seven-day rolling averages for each category need to be at a "lower transmission" level, which is set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During a Facebook live question-and-answer session Thursday, Arwady said she is "feeling optimistic," and a formal announcement regarding changes to the mask requirement will be made this week.
"We are almost down to these lower risk levels," the doctor explained, in part. "...We're really close, and it is really exciting."
The city's data was last updated Friday and had not been updated Monday due to the President's Day holiday, but as of the last release, only one of the four metrics was in the "low transmission" category. The three other metrics remained in "substantial transmission," according to the data.
Currently, Chicago has a mask mandate in place for indoor settings, along with a requirement that patrons in specific indoor establishments show a proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to gain entry.
City officials say that once three of the preceding four metrics hit the “lower transmission” level, that will start a two-week clock, known as an “incubation cycle.”
After those two weeks, if the numbers remain within the “lower transmission” category, then officials would move to remove mitigations that are in place.
But Arwady noted that the full two-week period may not be reached before the lifting begins.
"If it is not the 28th it won't be long after would be my expectation," she explained. "We got to see the day to get there. That's just that's just how it is...And we're getting really close and that is thanks to Chicagoans."