Pritzker: CDC will determine when Illinois lifts mask mandate
CHICAGO — Although Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois is on the cusp of removing COVID-19 restrictions and returning to normal, residents should not expect to get rid of face coverings any time soon.
“Illinois will lift its face-covering requirement when the CDC recommends it,” Pritzker said during a press conference. “Masks have been one of our best ways to reduce risk in this pandemic, and we won’t be so foolish as to throw away our best weapon heading into the last lap of the fight.”
Face coverings have been mandated in public places since May 1, 2020.
“We cannot lose our momentum,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We absolutely will not have any mask-burning parties. We in Illinois know the importance of masks. We know that we still need to avoid crowds if possible and keep our distance.”
Illinois is currently seeing only 12 cases of COVID-19 for every 100,000 people, down from 95 per 100,000 last November. Hospitalizations are also at an all-time low, indicating that as more people get vaccinated and recover from bouts with the virus, the state is moving closer to herd immunity.
Pritzker added that the state, currently in Phase 4 of the five-phase Restore Illinois plan, can move into Phase 5 once officials see a 50-percent vaccination rate among those 16 and older, which begins April 12. In the interim, Illinois will move to a “Bridge Phase,” triggered when at least 70% of seniors 65 and older have received at least one vaccine shot.
As of Thursday, 58% of seniors have gotten their first dose.
“So don’t let up,” Pritzker said. “Join me in wearing your mask and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn. Step by step, we can get out of this the same we came into it – together.”