Chicago reinstitutes indoor mask requirement; Pritzker won't follow suit for state

  • Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announces Tuesday afternoon that the city will mandate masks indoors for everyone starting Friday.

    Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announces Tuesday afternoon that the city will mandate masks indoors for everyone starting Friday. Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

  • Jaxen Desai, 7, wears a mask as he watches the first half of an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls in May in Chicago. The city is returning to indoor mask requirements.

    Jaxen Desai, 7, wears a mask as he watches the first half of an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls in May in Chicago. The city is returning to indoor mask requirements. Associated Press

  • Mask requirements are back in indoor shared spaces in Chicago, and suburban Cook County is considering following suit.

    Mask requirements are back in indoor shared spaces in Chicago, and suburban Cook County is considering following suit. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, March 8

 
 
Updated 8/17/2021 5:54 PM

Health officials in suburban Cook County are considering following the Chicago Department of Public Health's lead to reinstitute indoor masking requirements in public places, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he has no plan to do so for the rest of the state.

Pritzker, however, noted that's always an option to curb growing COVID-19 transmissions.

 

"I'm very pleased when a local government takes action to make sure the people who live in that community are protected," Pritzker said after being asked if he planned to mandate masks inside public places like Chicago did Tuesday. "Have you seen me reticent to impose mitigations? No, you have not. If we need to do more, we will do that."

After Chicago began averaging more than 400 daily new cases of COVID-19 this week, the city's public health officials announced the indoor mask requirement will be reinstituted starting Friday.

"We may need to put further restrictions in place, but different from last year, a high case count does not automatically translate to high hospitalizations and a high death count," Dr. Allison Arwady, head of Chicago's public health department, said Tuesday.

The Cook County Department of Public Health said it's considering a mask mandate, too. The department oversees health policy for the Cook County suburbs. Suburban Cook County is averaging 446 new cases of the virus a day, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.

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Other suburban and many other downstate county health departments don't have the power to impose mask requirements.

In Chicago, the mask-wearing rule applies to all shared indoor settings, including places like health clubs and common areas of condominium and apartment buildings, officials said. Health officials also recommend, but aren't requiring, masks in crowded outdoor settings.

Meanwhile, more than 65 performing arts venues and organizations in the suburbs and Chicago announced they will require face masks and proof of vaccination for patrons. Those unable to be vaccinated will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association backed Chicago's mask requirement but said it shouldn't be left to businesses and employees to enforce it and risk physical or verbal attacks.

"We support an indoor mask mandate as it is a measured approach that prioritizes public health while ensuring beleaguered retailers can continue to safely operate without further restrictions that would slow down hiring and interfere with economic recovery efforts," said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the association. "However, like previous mandates, this once again misses the mark by failing to place the responsibility on individuals who refuse to comply, especially after employees were threatened or attacked for simply trying to uphold public health orders. We call on the city to place responsibility for abiding by this mandate on individuals, not businesses."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The moves come as state health officials reported 16 more COVID-19 deaths and 3,639 new cases of the respiratory disease Tuesday.

The state's death toll from the virus is now 23,640, while 1,470,452 cases have been diagnosed since the outset of the pandemic.

Additionally, IDPH officials reported Tuesday that 18,636 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide.

The new inoculations brings the total number of doses administered in Illinois to 13,666,507 since mid-December, when vaccine distribution began.

IDPH officials are reporting 58.1% of the state's vaccine-eligible population of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 75% of that population has received at least one dose.

Hospitals statewide are treating 1,952 COVID-19 patients, 446 of whom are in intensive care, according to IDPH figures.

The state's seven-day case positivity rate is at 5.4%. Case positivity allows health officials to track the level of infection growth within a certain population and is the percentage of new cases derived from a batch of test results.

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