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The Illinois mask mandate will end for most public spaces this month

Here’s what you need to know (and where you’ll still need to mask up).

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

The state of Illinois will no longer require mask usage in most public spaces beginning Monday, February 28, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced in a Wednesday afternoon press conference—but don’t get ready to toss away your mask just yet, because the new rules might take a little longer to go into effect in Chicago.

Under Illinois’ updated regulations, the statewide mask mandate will end for locations like grocery stores, gyms, hair salons, music venues and other indoor gathering spaces at the end of the month. However, individual municipalities (like the City of Chicago, which has its own mask mandate) can still elect to require masks. Masks will also still be required for locations under a federal mask mandate—including public transit, health care facilities and federal buildings—as well as K-12 schools, though Pritzker says mask restrictions for schools may end within a few weeks.

Pritzker cited declining Covid-19 hospitalization rates for the change in restrictions, and praised Illinoisans for mask compliance during the Delta and Omicron surges over the past several months. An indoor mask mandate has been in place throughout the state since August 30. 

“I think all of us are getting tired of wearing masks, that’s for sure,” Pritzker said in a press conference Wednesday morning. “But I have to say an enormous compliment to the people of Illinois—we have done such a good job you have done such a good job of keeping each other safe.” 

So when will masking mitigations be phased out in Chicago? That depends on how the city's Covid-19 metrics progress over the next few weeks. After Pritzker’s Wednesday afternoon press conference, the Chicago Department of Public Health issued a release stating that the city also aims to lift masking restrictions on February 28, pending declines in “leading COVID metrics.” You can take a look at those metrics in the graphic below.

Covid-19 community transmission
Courtesy Chicago Department of Public Health

When at least three of the four metrics in the gray column (new cases per day, test positivity, hospital beds occupied and ICU beds occupied) move to the “low transmission” category and stay there for at least two weeks, then restrictions—like masking—will be lifted in Chicago. Right now, all four are decreasing, though it’s unclear whether they’ll dip low enough to hit the low transmission benchmark by February 28. 

Regardless of when the Chicago mandate is phased out, health officials stressed during the Wednesday press conference that mask usage will remain “highly recommended” in many instances, including in crowded indoor spaces, for immunocompromised people and for individuals who interact with immunocompromised people, among other populations. And of course, individual businesses can still elect to require mask usage, so remember to keep one handy even after February 28 rolls around. 

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