Due to the continued decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and increase in available ICU beds, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is lifting the state’s indoor mask requirement beginning on Monday, Feb. 28.
Since Pritzker initially announced his plan in February to lift the indoor mask requirement, the number of people in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 has been cut in half and the number of ICU beds available increased by 24 percent. Illinois’ weekly COVID-19 case rate has also decreased by 70 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Health.
“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve taken action to save lives and keep our economy open and I’m proud that Illinoisans have done the hard work that has our made our state a leader in the Midwest,” said Pritzker in a written statement on Friday, Feb. 25. “Today, our hospitals are much better positioned to handle emergencies and more than half of all eligible adults have been boosted; this is the progress we needed to make to remove our state indoor 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.”
Masks will still be required where federally mandated (including on public transit), health care facilities, congregate settings, long term care facilities, and daycare settings. Additionally, private businesses and municipalities may choose to implement their own masking requirements.
Schools are urged to continue following state and federal guidance to help keep students and staff safe in the classroom, Pritzker stated, and he will review the results of lifting the indoor mask mandate before making any announcement regarding the school mask mandate.
“We are now entering the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and while our focus continues to be on preventing severe illness and ensuring our health care systems aren’t overwhelmed, we are also looking forward to how we will coexist with COVID-19,” said Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
In the last four months of 2021 following the reinstatement of Illinois’ mask mandate on Aug. 30, 2021, Illinois had fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita and fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita than the entire Great Lakes region, according to the governor’s office. Illinois saw fewer reported COVID-19 cases per capita during this time than neighbors such as Iowa and Missouri.
More than 8 million people in Illinois are fully vaccinated with an average of approximately 16,000 COVID-19 vaccines administered each day, including more than 4,600 first doses daily, according to the IDPH.
Vaccines continue to be available at pharmacies across the state, many local health departments, doctor offices, federally qualified health centers, and other locations. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location, go to www.vaccines.gov.
“We each have a role to play in staying healthy and we have many tools that can help protect us from severe illness due to COVID-19. 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,” said Ezike.
Because of the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the state will begin winding down its mobile vaccination clinics over the next month as federal funding decreases. Schools, organizations, and other groups wanting to host a vaccination clinic should file an application within the coming weeks at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinationclinics.html.
Testing has become much more readily available with at-home tests at many pharmacies and the ability to order free COVID-19 tests at covidtest.gov. The 10 state community-based testing sites are currently open three days a week, but as the state continues to see the number of cases and the demand for testing decrease — and coming into warmer months during which time there has usually been a significant drop in COVID-19 cases—mass testing locations will close in favor of more cost-effective testing options, according to the governor’s office.
The state coordinated almost 8,000 mobile vaccination clinics providing more than 243,000 vaccinations. Of those clinics, the state partnered with community groups and non-profits on more than 2,000 clinics with a specific focus on equity and administered more than 86,100 vaccines. Almost 75,000 vaccinations were provided at the more than 2,000 school/youth vaccination clinics.