Mask mandate inside suburban Cook County public places restarts Monday

  • A Mitsuwa Marketplace patron in Arlington Heights dons a mask before entering the store to go shopping for food earlier this month. Many businesses had started requiring masks inside, but now Cook County is mandating it inside suburban public places.

      A Mitsuwa Marketplace patron in Arlington Heights dons a mask before entering the store to go shopping for food earlier this month. Many businesses had started requiring masks inside, but now Cook County is mandating it inside suburban public places. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Suburban Cook County health officials are reimposing an indoor mask mandate for all public settings beginning on Monday.

      Suburban Cook County health officials are reimposing an indoor mask mandate for all public settings beginning on Monday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, March 8

 
 
Updated 8/22/2021 8:46 AM

Masks will once again be required at all indoor public settings in suburban Cook County starting Monday.

And many Cook County employees will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, but employees of the sheriff's and state's attorney's offices aren't included.

 

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle put the mandate in place for employees under her jurisdiction and called it "the best way to protect ourselves and our communities."

Both new policies were issued Friday.

The mask edict applies to any gathering spaces in the county where the public is allowed inside, including movie theaters, restaurants, grocery stores, fitness centers and retail establishments.

A similar mask mandate went into effect Friday in Chicago.

"We are in a dangerous period, with the delta variant surging, during which we must return to previous remediation measures," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health . "We have no choice but to mandate that people wear masks indoors to help contain the spread of this virus."

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Unlike Cook County, other suburban and many other downstate county health departments don't have the power to impose mask requirements.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he would not reimpose such a mask mandate statewide unless "the science" guided him to do so.

"I encourage other local governments ... to also take proactive steps, and we will look at the state level whether that's an appropriate thing at some moment," he said at an event Friday in Springfield.

Suburban Cook County is averaging 460 new COVID-19 cases a day over the past week, according to the most recent figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Chicago reimposed the mask mandate after cases there surged to more than 400 a day.

Both suburban Cook County and Chicago have seven-day case positivity rates below the current statewide 5.3% rate. Case positivity shows the level of new infections within a certain population and is the percentage of new cases derived from a batch of tests.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the mandatory vaccinations for employees under her jurisdiction and covered by the Cook County Employment Plan. She urged other elected officials, including Sheriff Tom Dart and State's Attorney Kim Foxx, to put in place a similar requirement for their employees. There was no immediate indication whether they would do so.

Preckwinkle said the vaccination requirement was intended to "ensure that members of the public who interact with county employees and our facilities are safe when doing so, as well as to ensure the safety and well-being of employees while at work."

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