Chicago Health Officials Recommend Everyone Wear Masks Indoors as COVID-19 Surge Continues

In this file photo, restaurant patrons wear masks while dining indoors. (WTTW News)In this file photo, restaurant patrons wear masks while dining indoors. (WTTW News)

Everyone in Chicago, regardless of their vaccination status, should wear a mask indoors, Chicago health officials recommended Friday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Chicago to its list of areas experiencing “substantial” transmission of the coronavirus.

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However, the recommendation announced by Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady stops short of reimposing the city’s mask mandate even as confirmed cases of COVID-19 are surging across the country because of the delta variant, and new data suggests the virus can now be spread by fully vaccinated people.

“This isn’t forever, but it is necessary to help decrease the risk for all Chicagoans right now,” Arwady said in a statement.

The new recommendation for everyone older than age 2 came on the second day of Lollapalooza, which is  expected to draw 100,000 people to Grant Park each day of the four-day festival. City officials permitted the festival to take place, saying requirements that attendees be fully vaccinated or test negative with 72 hours and wear a mask would keep COVID-19 in check.

Masks are optional outdoors, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Cook County Public Health Department officials issued similar recommendations for mask mandates on Friday. Gov. J.B. Pritzker reimposed a mask mandate in state facilities on Thursday, saying COVID-19 cases were expected to continue to rise.

Chicago is now recording an average of 206 cases per day, based on a seven-day rolling average, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. In the past week, the number of cases has risen 58%, according to city data.

The city’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is now 3.1%, up from 2% during the past week, according to city data. 

In addition, more than eight people have been hospitalized, on average, every day this week, up from an average of five people every day last week, according to city data.

Hospitalizations in Chicago are at the highest level since mid-June, according to city data.

Students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks when school starts on Aug. 30, officials said.

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

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