With increasing hospitalizations and mounting COVID-19 case numbers prompted by the Delta variant, municipalities across the country have re-imposed mask mandates and other public health mitigations.
Local leaders in at least five states, including California and Nevada, have reinstated mask requirements, issued facial covering recommendations or threatened the return of strict public health limits for all residents. On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that vaccinated people don’t have to follow such protocols in most settings.
Mask requirements have yet to be reintroduced in Chicago, Illinois or communities within the state. At a news conference Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked if he anticipated reissuing a mandate.
The governor didn't say whether the state plans to make such a move, but offered advice to resident as fears over the Delta variant grow.
"I want to remind everybody that they ought to wear masks whenever they're in a crowded area indoors or whenever you just feel like you're not completely safe," Pritzker said.
After months of decline, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois recently doubled in a period of nine days.
The state saw 460 new cases on July 12, and by Wednesday, the number of new daily cases was reported to be 958, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Even with a rise in case numbers statewide and in Chicago, Lollapalooza, one of the city's biggest summer events, is still set to return next weekend.
Pritzker revealed that he, his wife and a few friends plan to attend the music festival, but emphasized people "need to be aware that we are not past this pandemic." The governor said, because Lollapalooza will take place outdoors, it should be safer than if it was an indoor event. Regardless, he is encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing - if possible.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city's top doctor both doubled down on their support of the event during a coronavirus update this week.
"...We want people to have a good time, and we want this to be as safe as it can be," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. "And so certainly, we'll be watching that just as we do any other gathering, but I am more concerned about the many people who have not chosen the COVID vaccine."
Arwady said Thursday that while the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains relatively low for those who've been vaccinated, she encouraged those who are concerned about crowded spaces to wear face coverings - if they wish.
"It's not a recommendation at a population level, because the risk of people having COVID is still low here, but it's not zero," she stated.
The Chicago health official asserted vaccinations help protect everybody and keep the surge of COVID cases small, but if reinstating a mask requirement becomes necessary, the city will "absolutely do that."