Suburban Cook County plans on rescinding its indoor mask requirements if key COVID-19 metrics continue to improve throughout the month of February, according to health officials.
In a statement issued Feb. 9, the Cook County Department of Public Health announced its vaccination and masking orders can be lifted in consistent with Illinois' Gov. J.B. Pritzker's timeframe for ending mask requirements as long as improvements occur.
That day Pritzker announced he intends to lift Illinois' statewide mask mandate, with certain exceptions, by Feb. 28.
In Cook County, masks will still be required in schools for staff members and students not named in a current lawsuit regarding the state's COVID mitigations in schools.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike previously reminded residents that masks will 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 last week.
CCDPH's current mask order applies to all of suburban Cook County excluding Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney Township.
As times progresses, health officials say they will continue to monitor all measures that will be considered in the decision-making progress, including:
- Sustained improvement in hospital and intensive care unit bed availability with decreased admissions for COVID
- Decreased case rates to a moderate level per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria (10-49.99 cases/100,000 population) for a sustained period
- Decreased case positivity rate to a moderate level per CDC criteria (5-7.99%) for a sustained period
Not all metrics need to be at target to modify the current mitigations, health officials explained, but substantial progress must be observed.
"Until that time, we continue to call for universal masking in indoor public places as part of a layered strategy required to control the spread of the virus," their statement read.