With COVID-19 cases on the rise across several states, the city of Philadelphia announced Monday that it will reinstate its indoor mask mandate.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration extended the nationwide mask requirement for airplane travel and public transit to May 3. Several major universities like Columbia, George Washington and Hopkins are also once again requiring students and faculty to wear face coverings indoors and in public places.
Here in Illinois health officials are not rushing to change the current guidelines.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker lifted the statewide indoor mask requirement Feb. 28, but face coverings are still required in public transit, inside medical and long-term health facilities and in government buildings. Wednesday, the governor said he supports individual towns and cities to do what they feel necessary to keep people safe, but declined to say whether the state is planning to issue another indoor mask mandate.
On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a statement saying “COVID-19 case rates are slowly rising in many areas of the state and that members of the public should be paying close attention to conditions in their local communities and staying up-to-date on their vaccination status.”
Dr. Rachel Ruben, senior medical officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health, says the county is seeing a rise in cases due to new omicron variants but emphasizes that new infections aren’t the only factor when issuing mask mandate.
Hospitalizations, and how taxed the local hospital systems are, are some factors that are taken into consideration in order to update the guidelines. Rubin says that vaccination rates — especially in northern Illinois — are good, she says many people who were infected with the original omicron variant may still have immunity and this could help prevent a spike as high as European and Asian countries are seeing.