Five things to know about life without masks Feb. 28
If COVID-19 hospitalizations and other metrics continue to improve, Illinoisans will be able to enter indoor public spaces without face masks on Feb. 28, with some exceptions.
It's been more than five months since Gov. J.B. Pritzker instituted masking rules on Aug. 30, 2021, as COVID-19 cases and infections rose.
Numerous questions are surfacing about the updated policy. Here are five things to know:
1. The situation is a little complicated. Although Illinois' indoor face mask mandate goes away on Feb. 28, that doesn't mean you can waltz into every single shop or business across the state sans face covering.
2. Local jurisdictions can impose their own masking rules as long as they're more stringent than the state's. Chicago and Cook County health department officials indicated Wednesday they expect to follow step with the state, barring a surge in cases or patient numbers.
3. Private businesses and organizations such as houses of worship also may have their own requirements. Among those likely to welcome the change are restaurants and movie theaters.
"We will follow the state and not require face masks once they lift the requirement on Feb 28," Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson said.
Some retail chains, such as Walgreens, are still mulling over the issue. "We are currently reviewing our policy but have not made any decision at this time," Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said.
4. Federal rules still require face coverings in airports and on airplanes, and on public transit including Metra trains, Pace buses and the CTA system.
Illinois also mandates masks in:
• Health care establishments, including hospitals and clinics.
• Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
• Congregate settings, including prisons or group homes.
• Daycare centers.
5. School districts have been among the most consistent entities enforcing masking rules because of strict state guidelines. But now, thanks to lawsuits working their way through the court system, that consistency is fractured.
On Feb. 4, a downstate judge issued a temporary restraining order that lifted mask mandates at about 170 school districts.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has appealed the order and a decision is expected in the coming days. In the meantime, numerous districts are diverging on whether masks are required or optional for students, staff and visitors.