Governor JB Pritzker announces future removal of Illinois mask mandate

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 5:45 AM CST
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ROCK ISLAND, Illinois (KWQC) - Illinois is preparing to enter a new phase of the pandemic.

Governor JB Pritzker announced Wednesday that he will drop the statewide mask mandate.

The decision was prompted by promising changes in state data, as hospitalizations fall at a consistent rate. But lifting the statewide mask mandate doesn’t mean you won’t see masks anywhere in Illinois starting Feb. 28.

″The heightened emergency of omicron has been consistently subsiding,” said Governor Pritzker at a press conference on Wednesday. “We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began.”

However, federal mask mandates will remain in place in government buildings, medical facilities, and transportation like buses and planes. Local governments and businesses will also be able to have their own mask requirements.

Another noticeable exclusion is Illinois schools. Health experts say there is a list of factors that make schools a unique space during a pandemic.

“Our children and our teachers and our other staff members are in those facilities for many hours a day in many cases in the same classroom spaces for many hours a day,” said Dr. Rebecca Heick, an assistant professor of public health at Augustana College. “Vaccination rates are lower in those groups of students in particular those who have just recently gotten access to vaccines or those who don’t have it yet.”

In order to lift mask mandates in schools, Heick thinks we’ll first have to see vaccine eligibility for kids of all ages. Still, she sees the statewide changes as promising.

″A year ago, we were not even close to that. So that is a huge step forward,” Heick said.″It is going to be what we’re seeing, you know, with the state of Illinois right now a very gradual process that will be monitored, kind of at every phase. And we may have to step back from time to time, and maybe not move forward quite as quickly as we had hoped. But even that, you know, we will get there.”

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