Note: The news conference can be watched live in the video player above beginning at around 2:30 p.m.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker will give a COVID-19 update Wednesday, his office says, with sources saying he is expected to announce a mask mandate for all K-12 schools in Illinois.
Pritzker will deliver the update at a news conference at 2:30 p.m. at the Thompson Center in Chicago, according to his public schedule. The event can be watched live in the video player above.
Pritzker is expected to unveil a requirement for all students, teachers and staff to wear masks in schools a little more than a week after the Illinois Department of Public Health said it would follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention'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.
At the same time, IDPH also said it was "fully adopting" the CDC's updated masking guidance that recommends fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with "substantial" and "high" transmission.
The agency uses a two measures to group U.S. counties into four levels of community transmission: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive over the past week.
If a county has reported 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period or has a positivity rate of 8% to 10%, it falls into the "substantial transmission" tier, while those reporting 100 cases or more per 100,000 or have a positivity rate of at least 10% are labeled as "high transmission." Those are the two groups for which the CDC recommends mask-wearing.
As of Monday, 96 of Illinois’ 102 counties - including all counties in the Chicago area - were experiencing either “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission, triggering the recommendation to mask indoors, 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," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement on July 27, noting that COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, especially among those who are unvaccinated against the virus.
"The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant," Ezike said. "We know masking can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and its variants. Until more people are vaccinated, we join CDC in recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial and high transmissions, and in K-12 schools."
Chicago Public Schools - the state's largest district - announced last month that all students and teachers will be required to wear face coverings and social distance while indoors this upcoming academic year.
Students and staff will have to wear a mask regardless of COVID vaccination status while indoors, except when eating and drinking, the district said in a letter to CPS families.
Face coverings will be able to be removed during recess and outdoor sports, the letter noted.
"Continuing to require masks will hep make sure those in our school communities who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which encompasses the majority of our students, remain as safe as possible," CPS said in the letter.