On the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifying Cook County as an area where there is substantial community transmission of COVID-19, the Chicago Department of Public Health is once again recommending the use of face coverings in public indoor settings.
Unlike previous masking guidelines, the latest guidance—which applies to all people over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status—isn't compulsory; rather, CDPH now recommends the use of masks in indoor spaces like businesses, places of work, restaurants, museums and other public settings.
"We are taking this step to prevent further spread of the very contagious Delta variant and to protect public health," CDPH commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. "This isn’t forever, but it is necessary to help decrease the risk for all Chicagoans right now."
Mask usage remains mandatory on public transit and in health care settings and other high-risk spaces. They'll also be mandatory in Chicago Public Schools when schools reopen on August 30.
At more than 200 new COVID-19 case diagnoses per day, Chicago meets the CDC's criteria for "substantial" community transmission. If the city reaches more than 400 cases per day, it will hit the "high" transmission category, at which point city officials have indicated they may seek further mitigations. In an interview with the New York Times earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said mask mandates and "other tools" might return to the city if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
"Well, look, if we get back into an area where we feel like we’re in a red zone, which we are working very hard to make sure that our daily case rate is below 200, if we start to see consistently going over that, we’re not only going to look at a mask mandate, but we’re going to look back at other tools that we’ve been compelled to use," Lightfoot said in the interview.
The new guidance also comes on the second day of Lollapalooza, the city's biggest music festival, which regularly draws more than 100,000 people to Grant Park each day. Although CDPH guidelines stop short of recommending masks in outdoor public settings, festival organizers require unvaccinated attendees to wear masks—though there's no clear method of enforcing that rule. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are up almost 50 percent in Illinois over the last week.
You can see all the counties where the CDC recommends mask usage by using this interactive map. Stay safe and don't forget to bring a face covering!