Illinois continues to head in the "right direction" in the fight against COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday, but the state's mask requirement remains in place - at least for now.
With declines in COVID cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations, questions have surfaced about whether the statewide mask mandate and other mitigations meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be rolled back anytime soon.
Illinois and at least eight other states still require masks at public indoor places regardless of if a person has been vaccinated or not.
While the state's overall mask mandate remains, the mask requirement for many school districts statewide has been struck down.
A judge Friday issued a temporary restraining order calling Pritzker's emergency orders in schools to combat COVID-19, which include a mask mandate, "null and void." That decision, however, doesn't apply to the general mandate for face coverings in public spaces.
With improvements in metrics amid a decline in omicron-variant fueled cases, Pritzker revealed changes may be coming to the mask mandate.
"I think we all want to be able to remove masks, also our job is to keep everybody healthy and make sure that we're doing the right thing," the governor said, adding he is constantly working with doctors and epidemiologists to determine when masks can be removed safely.
While COVID metrics are "heading in the right direction," Pritzker said he'll look for more improvements, specifically a decrease in hospitalizations, before making a decision about the state's mask requirement.
However, concerns remain about whether another COVID surge will occur in the future.
Pritzker pointed to the COVID-19 situation this past summer when the state removed its mask requirement following drops in hospitalizations and other COVID metrics. The numbers began to rise weeks later, leading Illinois to reimplement its mask mandate in August.
If the state decides to drop the mask requirement, it may be reinstated again - if necessary.
"Even when if we remove the requirement that people wear masks in various settings, there may come a time in the future when we would want people to put their mask back on," the governor stated.
As health officials and scientists continue to "evaluate the numbers," Pritzker said he hopes to provide additional guidance in the "coming days."