Pritzker Lifts Mask Mandate for Fully Vaccinated Illinois Residents; Lightfoot Says She Will Keep Wearing a Mask

People wearing masks line up for a food drive in Brighton Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side on April 23, 2020. (WTTW News)People wearing masks line up for a food drive in Brighton Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side on April 23, 2020. (WTTW News)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker lifted the state’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents on Monday after new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

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Illinois residents have been required to wear masks outside their homes since April 23, 2020.  

All Illinois residents must continue to wear masks in hospitals and doctor’s offices as well as in congregate settings like jails and long-term care facilities and on public transportation, according to the new rules. 

The Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health continue to require masks in schools and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services continues to require masks in day care facilities, officials said. 

“Getting vaccinated is the ultimate protection from COVID-19 and the quickest ticket back to normal life,” Pritzker said in a statement. “With public health experts now saying fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, I’m pleased to follow the science and align Illinois’ policies with the CDC’s guidance. I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn’t over yet.” 

Businesses can choose to require patrons and employees to wear masks and individuals can choose to wear a mask “out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn’t over yet,” Pritzker said. 

The new federal rules allow those who have received the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings two weeks after their shot. In addition, those who are fully vaccinated do not have to maintain 6 feet of social distance from those outside their households, according to the new rules. 

However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she will continue to wear a mask, both indoors and outdoors, even though she is fully vaccinated. 

The new rules have left people confused, Lightfoot said, calling on federal officials to “clarify” the new rules. 

Lightfoot said she was concerned because there is no way know whether someone is — or is not  — vaccinated. Approximately 38% of all Chicagoans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, she added. 

“We still have a long way to go in really hitting, I think, that critical mass or herd immunity,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t want people lulled into a false sense of security.” 

Lightfoot can order stricter rules than Pritzker enforced in Chicago, although a spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Public Health told WTTW News on Friday that city health officials “expect to broadly follow this new CDC guidance across most settings” in Chicago. 

Pritzker acknowledged Monday morning that the new rules rely “on people to do the right thing.”

“We are relying upon people to recognize that they don’t want to go infect other unvaccinated people and they don’t themselves want to get sick,” he said.

However, the CDC guidance cites studies that show vaccinated people are protected from COVID-19 and do not contribute to the spread of the virus. Those who are not fully vaccinated can spread the virus and are at risk of contracting it, federal officials said. 

Pritzker said Monday morning was the first time he left his home without wearing a mask, but that he would continue to wear one in large groups, like the news conference. 

“I’m going to take it, you know, gently and carefully going forward,” Pritzker said. “I do think the CDC’s guidelines are good ones and we will follow them here in the state of Illinois.” 

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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