Pritzker announces end to indoor mask mandate, with some exceptions


Daily file photo by Emma Edmund

Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He said his decision to lift the mask mandate was inspired by the state’s improving COVID-19 numbers.

Avani Kalra, Assistant City Editor

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that Illinois’ indoor mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28 if positive cases continue to decline. 

The mandates will remain in place in schools, day cares, healthcare facilities, federal buildings in high-risk areas, long-term care facilities and on public transportation, among other specified locations. Chicago officials said they will also end the city’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement to enter certain venues at the end of February, under the same conditions. 

Pritzker said his decision was inspired by the state’s progress, adding that Illinois ended 2021 with fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita than any other state in the Midwest. More Illinois residents are vaccinated than anywhere else in the Midwest, he said, and nearly 80% of eligible seniors have received a booster shot. 

“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve deployed the tools available to us as needed,” Pritzker said. “We’ve used masks more when infections are raging and hospitals are stretched thin. We’ve used masks less when spread is diminished and hospitals have enough bandwidth.”

Pritzker said this approach has saved lives while keeping the economy open and growing. At three weeks past the peak of the omicron variant surge, he said, the state is seeing its most rapid decline in hospitalizations since the pandemic began. 

Illinois follows in the footsteps of states like California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he will end the state’s indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals on Feb. 15.

“We are on track to come out on the other side of this latest COVID storm in better shape than even the doctors expected,” Pritzker said. 

Still, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon have announced they will also lift their mask mandates in schools. 

Pritzker is facing a legal challenge to the current mandate, as a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order exempting some school districts from the requirement last week.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avanidkalra

Related Stories: 

D65 to continue mask policy despite Illinois judge halting statewide mask mandate

COVID-19 case numbers rapidly declining, FDA to discuss vaccinations for children under 5

Evanston issues vaccination mandate