Facing rising coronavirus case numbers, Chicago public health officials did an about-face on Tuesday and announced a return to an indoor mask mandate some three months after lifting it.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said starting Friday face coverings will be required in Chicago stores, restaurants and other public spaces — for all people over the age of 2, regardless of the person’s vaccination status.
“There is a lot going on in COVID,” she said.
“With Chicago passing 400 cases per day we have save seen that metric pass into higher risk,” Arwady announced at a city hall news conference. “We are today announcing a new mandate … now as we cross 400, masks are required for all indoor settings.”
Arwady said she does not foresee further restrictions or business limits.
“Our goal is remain open but careful. Chicago now is at an average of 419 cases per day, and being consistently above 400 means that “masks are now required in indoor public settings in Chicago.”
Also at the news conference were the health department’s medical director, Dr. Geraldine Luna, and Kenneth J. Meyer, acting commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Just days before the Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is saying she would not hesitate to return to a mask mandate if Chicago’s daily rate of coronavirus cases was “consistently going over” 200.
Chicago’s numbers highlights a concerning statewide trend as all but four of the state’s 102 counties are in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high transmission” category. Three of the other four checked in one level below that, the “substantial transmission” category.
High transmission is defined as more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days or a test positivity rate exceeding 10% over that period.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday had warned “we are going to be in this a little while longer.”
“I’m talking about COVID-19 and the challenge that it brings to all of us,” Pritzker said. “We’re going to be dealing with this for some time, it’s clear because there are many people who aren’t yet vaccinated — and we want them to go get vaccinated as soon as possible — but the variants are also alive, well and moving across the world.”
Earlier this month, Pritzker issued a statewide mask requirement for schools. The Democratic governor hasn’t provided an end date for when students, teachers and staff would be able to ditch the face coverings, saying “this virus tends to have cycles to it and variants” and the face coverings are one way to keep people “safe and healthy in our schools.”
Chicagoans can request an in-home shot by calling (312) 746-4835. For help finding a dose in suburban Cook County, visit cookcountypublichealth.org or call (833) 308-1988. To find other Illinois providers, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.
Contributing: Rachel Hinton