Illinois' mask mandate applies "even outside," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, noting that residents should still be wearing masks even if they're just walking down the street.
"Even outside, if you're outside and walking around and can't maintain social distance - which by the way, on a typical busy street in the city of Chicago, you can't maintain social distance without a mask, you just can't," Pritzker said. "People walking by each other that you're coming in close proximity to, someone who, by the way, is facing you and people in front of you who might be aspirating or they might be coughing or, you know, sneezing or whatever - those particles remain in the air. And if you don't wear a mask, and if they're not wearing a mask, then there is a much easier ability to transmit the virus."
Pritkzer noted that the statewide mask mandate doesn't only apply to public spaces indoors. He added that the outdoor concerns still matter in rural parts of the state, as well.
"It's very important even in rural areas of Illinois. If you're going to another area, town, you know, like a business or gathering spot for people in your area and (if) you're going to be in close proximity with people, then wear a face cover," he said.
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to uphold new enforcement rules proposed by Pritzker and the state’s Department of Public Health, giving local health departments and law enforcement agencies additional tools to enforce the mask mandate and gathering restrictions.
Under provisions of the new rules, businesses, schools and child care facilities could face fines of up to $2,500 for refusing to comply with state mandates.
“The rule allows a modest level of enforcement similar to what many other states already have,” Pritzker said over the weekend. “It prioritizes education and support for businesses over shaming and punishment. It stands in vast contrast to the arcane rules written long ago and without this pandemic in mind. These hard-and-fast rules can cripple businesses.”
Several Illinois regions are reporting increases in their positivity rates, Pritzker said Wednesday.
"Across the state, our 11 Restore Illinois regions are trending in different directions, the majority of which are negative," he said during a coronavirus update in Chicago.
The news prompted a warning for the governor who said if changes are made "it will only be a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in and roll things back on a regional basis."
"Something none of us wants," he said.
Across the state, health officials reported 1,645 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, along with 16 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now recorded a total of 198,593 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, with 7,672 fatalities reported.
Over the last 24 hours, the state also reported 42,098 new tests, an increase from a day earlier. That brings the total number of tests performed in the state to 3,189,801.
Those new test results keep the state's seven-day positivity rate steady at 4.1%.
"The virus is still among us, and will be until a treatment or vaccine is developed," Pritzker said Wednesday. "In the meantime, masking and distancing are two of the most important things we can do to stay healthy and safe during this pandemic."
The average number of new coronavirus cases in Illinois has been steadily increasing for more than a month, to the point where the state has nearly reached the threshold at which Chicago requires anyone entering the city from more than a dozen states to quarantine for 14 days under an emergency travel order.
Public health data shows that the 7-day rolling average number of new cases in Illinois - calculated excluding Chicago - stood at 14.3 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people as of Wednesday.