Pritzker rescinding mask rule for fully vaccinated residents

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown in Lake County, has changed Illinois' mask rules to reflect CDC guidelines relaxing face covering rules for vaccinated people.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown in Lake County, has changed Illinois' mask rules to reflect CDC guidelines relaxing face covering rules for vaccinated people. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, January 2021

 
 
Updated 5/18/2021 6:33 AM

Illinois is aligning its mask rules to reflect recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don't need face coverings in most public settings, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker's decision to rescind mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people comes amid some confusion over the new rules and pushback from some.

 

"With public health experts now saying fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, I'm pleased to follow the science and align Illinois' policies with the CDC's guidance," Pritzker said in a statement. "I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn't over yet."

The CDC is requiring masks for everyone at schools, day cares, in health care settings, on transit and in airplanes, and in congregate settings such as shelters.

Unvaccinated individuals should still wear masks and social distance, the CDC recommends.

The governor also reaffirmed the state won't issue any type of ID proving someone has been inoculated -- but it will provide data for private businesses or individuals that might do so.

Some health experts and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed concerns about the public letting down its guard while a pandemic continues.

Lightfoot said on MSNBC the rollout of new rules by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was "abrupt" and the CDC has a lot of clarifying to do. "For me personally, I will continue to wear a mask in public and encourage others to do so."

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The CDC and President Joe Biden announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in public, with exceptions. The updated guidance relies on people to wear masks voluntarily if they're unvaccinated.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said, "while the updated guidance from the CDC is welcome news, let me remind everyone that this guidance is only for those people who are fully vaccinated.

"Individuals who do not have the protection afforded by one of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines should still wear a mask."

Illinois issued a mask mandate to reduce spread of COVID-19 in May 2020 that had no provisions for vaccinations, which began in late December.

The state will not provide an official form of ID showing someone has been fully vaccinated, Pritzker said at a briefing Monday morning. That's up to private businesses and individuals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But the state "will provide data and information for private solutions like that," said Pritzker, who did not provide further details.

"We're not going to stop people and start checking for a vaccine passport as part of a state mandate," he said.

The average number of vaccinations administered in Illinois has declined since a peak in April.

Scientific and public health data shows COVID-19 vaccines work, which should motivate unvaccinated people to get a shot, Pritzker said.

"We are relying on people to do the right things," he said. "We are relying on people to recognize that they don't want to infect unvaccinated people and they themselves don't want to get sick."

Meanwhile, Dr. Emily Landon, who has often appeared with Pritzker at briefings, said on Twitter she is concerned fewer masks could endanger people unprotected against COVID-19, including children not yet eligible for vaccines.

"When misinformation is more prevalent than truth and politicization of everything from masks to vaccines shapes behavior at least as much as science, asking vulnerable Americans to trust each other to follow the new CDC guidance ignores the main issue entirely," wrote Landon, who leads University of Chicago's infectious disease prevention and control program.

Currently, one vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer Inc., is available for everyone age 12 and up but that still leaves more than 1.8 million children in Illinois unprotected against COVID-19. Vaccine trials are ongoing for kids age 11 and younger.

Unraveling Illinois' mask rules included revising an emergency declaration and a resolution approved by state legislators, as well as working with health experts.

"This morning was the first time I came out of my home not wearing my mask immediately. There was no one standing nearby so I felt comfortable doing that," Pritzker said. "I am trying to be careful when I'm in large crowds. I'm going to take it gently and carefully going forward."

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