Pritzker announces plans to end state indoor mask mandate

Governor+J.B.+Pritzker+speaks+after+being+sworn+into+office+in+Springfield+on+Jan.+14%2C+2019.+Pritzker+has+announced+lifting+the+mask+mandate+for+indoors.+

The Daily Illini Photo File

Governor J.B. Pritzker speaks after being sworn into office in Springfield on Jan. 14, 2019. Pritzker has announced lifting the mask mandate for indoors.

By Thomas DeMouy, Staff Writer

Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced that he plans to end the indoor mask mandate by the end of the month but not for K-12 schools.

This development comes after a Sangamon County judge ruled on Feb. 4 against requiring students to wear masks at school.

The University has yet to announce any change in policy related to Pritzker’s announcement. 

According to Robin Kaler, the University’s associate chancellor for Public Affairs, the University is in the process of consulting with local health partners and will announce changes after the evaluation is complete.

Mask mandates will continue to be enforced in hospitals, long-term care facilities, day care centers and K-12 schools. Pritzker said the state has appealed the Sangamon County ruling, which will remain in the litigation process for the near future.

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Awais Vaid, deputy administrator and epidemiologist for Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said mask recommendations may still occur seasonally.

He also said that Champaign County is seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases.

“We saw a very fast surge (in COVID-19 cases) in December and the beginning of January, and now we are seeing a very fast decline in the number of cases as well,” Vaid said.

He also mentioned that the statewide hospitalization numbers continue to improve.

But Vaid said vulnerable populations, like children, still have low vaccination rates. He said children in Champaign County between the ages 5 and 11 are 37% vaccinated.

Outside of vulnerable populations or those that aren’t thoroughly vaccinated, Vaid believes that mask mandates will be repealed gradually nationwide.

Vaid believes that the overall outlook of the pandemic will remain positive as long as deadlier strains of COVID-19 do not emerge, crediting vaccination and improved treatments with the rapid decline of the Omicron surge.

“In those circumstances, I don’t see a mask mandate coming back,” Vaid said.

 

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