Gov. Pritzker Lifts State Mask Mandate on Public Transportation After Federal Judge Strikes Down CDC Rule

Masks or face coverings are no longer required on public transportation in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday afternoon, issuing a revised executive order hours after Chicago transportation and health officials told CTA and Metra riders to keep masking up.

Pritzker acted the day after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the nationwide mandate that had been set to expire May 3, ruling that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials did not prove the mandate was justified or that they properly imposed the rule.

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“I’m proud of the work our state has done to fight COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable,” Pritzker said. “I continue to urge Illinoisans to follow CDC guidelines and, most importantly, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said during an online question-and-answer session Tuesday morning that Pritzker’s executive order required that masks be worn on public transit and in transportation hubs, like O’Hare and Midway airports and CTA train stations until April 30.

Pritzker revised that order just hours later, prompting city officials to quickly reverse course.

While city health officials could have imposed a mask mandate on public transportation in Chicago, they did not.

Masks are also no longer be required at O'Hare and Midway airports, according to an announcement from the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an unrelated event before the governor acted that city officials were reviewing the court’s decision.

“I believe that where we will end up is that we are going to recommend that people who feel comfortable and feel like they need to wear a mask continue to wear a mask,” Lightfoot said, adding that she would continue to wear a mask on airplanes for the “foreseeable future.”

Metra officials immediately changed the rules for their commuter trains, making masks “welcome but not required.”

“We are asking everyone to please be courteous and kind toward your fellow riders and understanding of their needs and choices,” said Metra Communications Director Michael Gillis. “This has been a difficult period for everyone – let’s all do what we can to help each other on the way back.”

The federal judge’s decision prompted the Transportation Safety Agency to stop enforcing the mask mandate on all forms of public transportation, including airplanes, buses, trains, taxis and ride-hailing vehicles. Several airlines immediately dropped their mandates, making masks optional for passengers.

Federal health officials continue to recommend that everyone wear a mask on public transportation.

Chicago and Illinois officials lifted the city and state mask mandate on Feb. 28, after the peak of the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spurred by the omicron variant of the virus. While cases have risen significantly since then, hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19 remain at record-low levels, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

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

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