Chicago, Cook County lifting most mask, proof of vaccine requirements Feb. 28

  • New cases of COVID-19 totaled 6,242 over the long weekend's four days, with 132 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday.

    New cases of COVID-19 totaled 6,242 over the long weekend's four days, with 132 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday. Courtesy of Edward Hospital

 
 
Updated 2/22/2022 7:07 PM

With declining numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections, Cook County and Chicago on Tuesday announced plans to follow the state in lifting face mask requirements in most public spaces on Monday, Feb. 28.

Masks still will be required in health care settings, on public transit, on planes, at nursing homes and other congregate settings.

 

Cook County and Chicago also will drop rules requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and gyms.

"My goal is to make sure we never have to shut down our economy again," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "I feel very confident we are on the right path and moving in the right direction."

"We are glad to be able to move with the rest of the state to lift these measures," Cook County Department of Public health Senior Medical Officer Rachel Rubins said in a statement.

As the omicron surge in December and January sent COVID-19 metrics through the roof, the rolling seven-day average for new cases in suburban Cook County reached 5,980 on Jan. 5. It was 285 as of Friday, the Cook County health department reported. Hospitalization averages have also declined, from 502 on Feb. 14 to 342 on Monday, state data shows.

Across Illinois, there were 1,863 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 1,442 on Sunday, 1,388 on Monday and 1,549 on Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday. It was the first time new daily infections have dropped below 2,000 since Nov. 3.

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Illinois hospitals were treating 1,331 COVID-19 patients Monday night; the seven-day average is 1,236.

"The movement of hospitalizations has gone swimmingly down as we expected," Gov J.B. Pritzker said at an event Tuesday. "I think Feb. 28, the date we had chosen, is a great date for everyone to follow suit."

He noted that local jurisdictions can set their own more stringent rules, as well as private businesses for "the kind of space they're in or the kind of business they do."

Meanwhile, a hodgepodge of COVID-19 mitigations continue at schools across the state as a result of a downstate appellate court's ruling Thursday that the governor's mask mandate has expired. The Pritzker administration intends to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court and urges those in schools to wear masks.

Cook County officials said they strongly recommend face masks in schools, but numerous districts have gone mask-optional this month, saying the decision should rest with parents given reductions in cases.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Chicago Public Schools said in a statement that masks would continue after Monday, Feb. 28, noting, "We still need to get more students vaccinated across our district."

Illinois reported 72 deaths from COVID-19 Saturday, 18 Sunday, 17 Monday and 25 Tuesday.

Total cases statewide stand at 3,019,951, and 32,431 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is now at 2%.

From Friday to Monday, 68,310 more COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered. The seven-day average is 18,543.

So far, 8,503,109 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or 67.1% of the state's 12.7 million population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's.

Of those people who are fully vaccinated, 48.8% have received a booster shot.

The federal government has delivered 23,734,525 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December 2021, and 21,024,696 shots have been administered.

Labs processed 73,402 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

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