Chicago mandates masks indoors as new COVID-19 cases top 400 a day; no plans for state to follow suit
Chicago officials announced Tuesday that an indoor mask mandate will return to the city, more than two months after most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted but as a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus drives a late summer surge.
Starting Friday, anyone age 2 and older will have to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccine status, Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a news conference. She cited the far more transmissible delta variant and its role in pushing the city into the higher risk category of more than 400 new daily COVID-19 cases — but she added that residents need not panic.
“Four hundred cases per day is concerning. It means that if you’re out and about in Chicago, the risk of you potentially being exposed to someone who has COVID has gone up,” Arwady said. “But in terms of where we’ve been, as a city, it is not a cause for alarm. It is a cause for caution.”
“With the highly transmissible Delta variant causing case rates to increase, now is the time to re-institute this measure to prevent further spread and save lives,” said Dr. Arwady. “We continue to track the data closely and are hopeful this will only be temporary and we can bend the COVID curve, as we’ve done in the past.”
Masks are required in all indoor public settings, including bars and restaurants, gyms, common areas of condos and multi-residential buildings, and private clubs.
“It’s just one of those things, like here we go again,” said Luis Centeno, owner of Fit Results South Loop. “It’s bad news, but at the same time we want to just make sure that we keep everybody safe.”
Masks can also be removed for certain activities that require their removal, such as beard shaves or facials. Additionally, masks can be removed by employees in settings that are not open to the public, if employees are static and maintaining at least six feet from all other individuals (office cubicles, for example).
“Our goal is to stay open. I don’t expect that this will be an indefinite, forever mask requirement and that’s why we’ve also been very clear that we’re on the way up now. I expect that we’ll come back down and when we get back under that threshold, is when we would drop it. I really think again it’s based on what we’ve learned from COVID to date and wanting to minimize the risk for everybody, including those not yet eligible for vaccination,” Arwady said.
“Yes, it’s going to be a little hectic enforcing it. People are so used to not wearing a mask,” Sachez said. “The small little mom and pop restaurants are going to suffer because if you have a choice to sit outside on a large patio instead of indoor wearing a mask, you’re going to go outside.”
State officials on Tuesday reported 3,639 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, bringing the average number of new daily cases over the past week to 3,327.
That’s the highest level since the week ending April 15. During the state’s spring surge, the seven-day average of new cases peaked at 3,390 during the week ending April 13.
A week ago, the state was averaging 2,751 daily cases, and a month ago the average was 691 cases per day.
The latest surge, driven by the delta variant, appears to be spurring a rise in vaccinations, with the average number of daily doses reaching 39,011 statewide during the week ending Monday. That’s up from an average of 24,965 a week earlier but still well below the more than 100,000 daily shots that were being administered during the height of the vaccination effort in April.
Nearly 61% of eligible Illinois residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The state reported 17 additional fatalities Tuesday, pushing the average number of daily deaths over the past week to 14, up from an average of 12 per day a week earlier.
In all, the state has recorded 23,640 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began.