Echoing a masking announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois health officials are recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in school settings and in areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
“While data continues to show the effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S., including against the delta variant, we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement.
On Tuesday, the CDC issued a recommendation that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, defined by the agency as areas with 50-99 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period or more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, respectively.
In Chicago, the average seven-day case rate per 100,000 people is 7.7, according to state data.
The federal agency also called for universal masking for all teachers, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The delta variant is more contagious and spreads twice as easily from one person to another compared to other strains, according to health officials. It is also causing some breakthrough infections in people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to officials. Most breakthrough infections are mild, according to officials, and the vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
“Cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 both continue to increase, overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, but the risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the delta variant,” Ezike said.
The number of COVID-19 cases has been steadily increasing over the past few weeks and the seven-day statewide positivity rate is 3.7%, according to IDPH data.
“We know masking can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and its variants. Until more people are vaccinated, we join CDC in recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial and high transmissions, and in K-12 schools,” Ezike said.
More than 57% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to IDPH vaccine data.