Pritzker makes it official: Indoor mask mandate will be lifted Monday, including for schools
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state's indoor masking requirement in most public places will be lifted starting Monday, including in schools.
Pritzker said the steep decline in hospitalizations from COVID-19 and availability of ICU beds in hospitals across the state led to the decision that he had anticipated earlier this month.
Pritzker's decision comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced a major change in indoor masking policies, which officials said would drop such requirements for more than 60% of U.S. counties currently.
Part of that change includes lifting a universal school masking recommendation, instead going to a recommendation for masks only in schools within communities at a high risk level.
Currently, the CDC's new guidance map on its website -- cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county -- lists Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties as "low"-risk communities.
Pritzker officially lifted his mask mandate for schools starting Monday, citing the CDC guidance, even after the Illinois Supreme Court late Friday vacated a lower court's temporary restraining order that had blocked the mandate. The state Supreme Court did not rule on the mandate itself, sending the issue back to the lower court.
Many school districts made masks optional after the lower court ruling. Pritzker lauded the state Supreme Court ruling, saying it would allow him to impose the mandate again if ever needed, but now he says schools should follow state and federal public health guidance.
The CDC is maintaining masking recommendations in public transit settings regardless of community risk level.
The CDC is now using hospitalization metrics to determine mitigation levels instead of case counts, officials also noted.
Currently, the state is reporting 1,143 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide. There were 2,266 COVID-19 patients hospitalized when the indoor mask mandate was reinstated at the end of August 2021.
Of those currently hospitalized, 211 are in intensive care, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures. There were 537 COVID-19 patients in ICU beds when the mask mandate was reinstated in August.
Masks will still be required where federally mandated, including on public transit as well as in congregate care settings, health care sites and day cares.
Pritzker said private businesses and municipalities can choose to implement their own masking requirements.
"As individuals, I encourage everyone to make the best choices going forward to protect your health, along with that of your family and community -- and most importantly to treat each other with kindness and compassion," Pritzker said.
Illinois reintroduced its mask mandate Aug. 30 last year when the delta variant, and then omicron, made new cases climb to their highest levels ever during the pandemic. Hospitalizations from the virus eventually topped out at more than 7,300 at one point earlier this year.
IDPH officials on Friday reported the state's seven-day case positivity rate is at 1.8%, its lowest level since July 14, 2021, records show.
State health officials reported 74 more COVID-19 deaths, as well as 2,074 new cases.
That brings the state's death toll from the virus to 32,654, while 3,026,737 infections have been diagnosed since the outset of the pandemic.
CDC figures show 67.4% of the state's 12.7 million residents are fully vaccinated. Of those fully vaccinated, 48.9% have received booster doses.
IDPH officials are reporting vaccine providers in Illinois are averaging 16,309 shots a day over the past week.
Pritzker said more than 4,600 of those daily shots are first doses of the vaccine.
Because of the wide availability of vaccine doses, Pritzker also announced the state would be "winding down its mobile vaccination clinics over the next month as federal funding decreases."
Organizations and schools wanting to host a vaccination clinic can still apply through the IDPH website, dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinationclinics.
IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said the state is also better situated with a variety of ways to help combat the spread and effects of COVID-19.
"We have many tools that can help protect us from severe illness due to COVID-19," she said. "Our tools include readily available safe and effective vaccines, monoclonal antibody and oral antiviral treatments, at-home testing, as well as the personal health actions people can take such as avoiding crowds, hand washing and continued mask wearing as may be recommended."