Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made his first public appearance since Illinois lifted its mask mandate Monday, crediting Illinoisans for following COVID-19 policies that brought down metrics and led the state to rescind mask requirements.
Pritzker stopped by Navy Pier where he dropped the mask and greeted visitors during an event celebrating the end of mask mandates in both Illinois and Chicago.
The months-long mask requirements, as well as Chicago's proof-of-vaccination mandate, came to an end following sustained decreases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and other metrics.
Speaking to reporters, Pritzker applauded residents for doing their part to reduce metrics and expressed hope toward continued COVID improvements in the coming months.
"I love it," he said. "I'm so excited that we now have no indoor mask mandates. That we have no more school indoor mask mandates, and it's all because the people of Illinois did the right thing throughout this pandemic and that we've been able to bring hospitalizations down," he said.
Under updated guidelines released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70% of Americans can safely remove face coverings indoors, including those in Illinois' Chicago-area counties.
However, a total of 21 counties, mainly in the western and southern portions of the state, are still listed as having "high" transmission risk, meaning masks are still recommended.
While masks are no longer required by Chicago and the state of Illinois, businesses, school districts and local governments may choose to implement mask mandates if they wish. Masks are also still required on public transportation in accordance with federal guidelines.
Even though the governor believes it's time for people to go without masks, he acknowledged some may think it's too soon to remove face coverings.
"I do want to say very importantly, if you feel like you should wear a mask, anywhere, indoors or outdoors... in a room with more people than you think is comfortable, you should wear a mask and I want to encourage people to have some compassion for everybody else," he said. "Both ways, whether they're wearing a mask or not."