Delaware, New Jersey governors lift mask mandates

Delaware, New Jersey governors lift mask mandates

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is “hopeful” Illinois could soon drop statewide pandemic protocols after COVID-19 dropped by half. His peers in Delaware, New Jersey and earlier Iowa dropped their mask mandates.

As governors in Iowa, Delaware and New Jersey announce an end to statewide COVID-19 mandates, Illinois remains among the minority still operating under emergency pandemic rules.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Feb. 4 his administration will lift Illinois’ mask mandate “as soon as we possibly can.” Statewide COVID-19 metrics saw new cases decline by 51% the previous week.

Pritzker would not offer target dates for rescinding his pandemic protocols, as other governors have done. He said he was “hopeful” about loosening the state’s indoor masking requirements.

New Jersey ended mask mandated for indoor locations and schools on Feb. 7. Delaware is ending its indoor mask mandate Feb. 11 and school mask mandate March 31. Iowa ends its emergency mandates Feb. 15.

Pritzker’s “hopeful” statement came the same day his mask mandate was temporarily voided for 170 Illinois schools after being ruled unconstitutional.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to weather this omicron COVID storm that came through,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “I believe that we should remove masks as soon as we possibly can. I am constantly listening to the doctors and scientists and encouraging them. … I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to make some announcements about that.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported an average 8,627 new cases daily Feb. 4, a 51% decline in cases from the last week in January. It is the smallest weekly caseload recorded since omicron emerged in Illinois.

COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and ICU bed use has also decreased statewide with limited exceptions in southern Illinois. Even Chicago is considering lifting city vaccination and masking requirements as cases dip citywide.

Pritzker said his public health team will “very carefully evaluate how to keep people safe and healthy while we might bring down the mitigation levels.”

Despite previous hints from the governor that Illinoisans could soon see an end to his executive COVID-19 mandates, Pritzker has repeatedly avoided offering target dates or specific thresholds under which he would consider lifting them.

At the end of Pritzker’s 24th state disaster proclamation issued Feb. 4., Illinois will have been under emergency pandemic rule for 724 consecutive days.

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