Illinois and Chicago officials have separately commented on the future of masks in the city and state as more mandates return across the U.S.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday in a press conference that the state will follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in terms of mask requirements, just as they have done throughout the pandemic.
"As you know, we have followed the CDC's science and guidelines since we moved to Phase Five," Pritzker said. "We continue to look at that scientific evidence for how we will operate in the state of Illinois, regardless of vaccination status as well. So there's no doubt that will weigh heavily on decisions that I'll make about what we should do for the state of Illinois."
Shortly after the comments on Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the state is "fully adopting" the CDC's updated masking guidance recommending that fully vaccinated people begin wearing face coverings indoors again in places with substantial and high transmission.
IDPH also will 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.
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.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday prior to the announcement from IDPH that the city will not likely impose a mask mandate unless data shows a "high risk."
"My feeling is, we want to make sure if we are moving to particularly mandate around masking again, even for people who are unvaccinated, I want to do that based on our local data and our local risk," Arwady said. "And I want to do it at a time where really the risk is significantly higher."
Arwady said the latest CDC guidance was likely not as related to Chicago data as it was to areas of more pushback around COVID-19 vaccinations. She added that the new recommendations do not relate to the efficacy of the vaccine.
"I want to be clear that if there are recommendations around masking, it is not because the vaccines are not working and I think that's where there's been, sometimes some pushback. It just has to do with where there are a lot of people not vaccinated, there's more opportunity for [COVID-19] to spread," Arwady said.
Arwady, Ezike and IDPH 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.