coronavirus illinois

Cook County Adjusts Masking Guidance for Schools in Wake of New CDC Recommendation

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Health officials in suburban Cook County have changed their guidance on masking in schools following new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, which stated that fully vaccinated people should begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high transmission.

"As COVID-19 case counts continue to surge, based largely on the highly contagious Delta variant, the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) along with the Illinois Department of Public Health, strongly endorses the new CDC guidance calling for universal masking in all schools, K-12 and is revising its School Masking Guidance," the Cook County Health Department said in a statement.

The county noted the "expectation is that schools will follow the CDC masking guidance."

The Illinois Department of Public Health said Tuesday is was "fully adopting" the CDC's updated masking guidance. IDPH said it will also follow the CDC's new recommendations for masking indoors at K-12 schools, recommending it be done universally among teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. 

"While data continues to show the effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S., including against the Delta variant, we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement, noting that COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, especially among those who are unvaccinated against the virus.

"The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant," Ezike said. "We know masking can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and its variants. Until more people are vaccinated, we join CDC in recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial and high transmissions, and in K-12 schools."

According to IDPH, areas of substantial transmission "are considered by the CDC to be those with 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period. Areas of high transmission are considered to be those with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period."

IDPH pointed to the CDC's data on the delta variant showing the variant is considerably more contagious than other strains and spreads more than twice as easily from person to person.

Both Cook County and Illinois' health department continue to encourage Illinois residents to get vaccinated.

"According to CDC, the Delta variant is causing some vaccine breakthrough infections, but even so, most breakthrough infections are mild, and the vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death," IDPH said.

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