Citing an increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an order Thursday requiring that everyone who enters a state building wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.
Earlier the same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced many Illinois counties were seeing either "substantial" or high" community transmission of COVID-19. According to the CDC, the delta variant has caused more than 80% of recent cases and estimates indicate it will likely cause more.
In a news release, Dr. Nzogi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, explained the masking directive adds another layer of protection for state employees and those Illinois serves.
“Vaccination is still the best protection against both the older and newer variants that cause COVID-19," she stated. "And until more people get vaccinated and transmission decreases, masking will help protect us all."
According to guidance released Thursday, state employees must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth while in a workplace or performing work duties in indoor settings outside of their residence, unless a medical condition prevents them from doing so. Employees are also advised to maintain physical distance of at least six feet "at all times or as much as reasonably possible."
Visitors over 2 years old are required to wear face coverings while inside state offices and facilities. An exception is made if individuals "are unable to medically tolerate a face covering," the guidance stated.
While the CDC recommends facial coverings for vaccinated individuals in areas seeing "substantial" or "high" transmission of COVID-19, Illinois has yet to reinstate a statewide mask mandate.