Illinois only state east of Mississippi with statewide mask mandate

Illinois only state east of Mississippi with statewide mask mandate

Gov. J.B. Pritzker teased Illinoisans in mid-October that he might lift the statewide mask mandate if new COVID-19 cases declined. But he recently pulled back on that hope, leaving Illinois as one of the few states with a statewide mask mandate.

Gov. J.B Pritzker hinted Oct. 19 Illinoisans could see the end of his statewide mask mandate by the holidays if COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continued to decline.

But after the latest COVID-19 data revealed daily hospitalization rates across the state have plateaued ahead of winter, the governor cautioned Illinoisans he would not let them take off their masks anytime soon.

“New hospitalizations are flat. That is not a good sign. That’s not what’s happened in previous dips from surges,” Pritzker said after receiving his coronavirus booster shot Nov. 2 in Chicago.

Illinois is now the only state east of the Mississippi with a statewide indoor mask mandate for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status. Washington, Oregon and New Mexico also have blanket mask mandates.

“We went down for a while here, but now we’ve leveled out at a level that is much higher than the summer… If the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 is heading downward, that’s a really good sign and means that we’re, you know, getting more and more optimistic about removing indoor mask mandates outside of the schools.”

Pritzker did not specify what level COVID-19 metrics would need to reach before lifting his indoor mask mandate for all Illinoisans.

Deaths in Illinois saw a peak in early September but have been declining since then.

While new case numbers and hospitalizations hover well below their peaks during the surge in late August, the metrics remain above lows reported earlier in the summer.

Pritzker has previously justified his reinstatement of the statewide mask mandate Aug. 30 as necessary to stem the influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant.

Pritzker warned then that the surge threatened to overwhelm the state health care system and leave Illinois “running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds.”

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed hospital beds, ICU units and ventilators in use by COVID-19 patients all below 10% of total capacity on Nov. 4.

The average number of patients hospitalized daily with COVID-19 declined by a quarter since early October, from roughly 1,600 to 1,200. Hospitalization have persisted around 1,200 daily patients for the past two weeks.

Chicago hospital leaders said despite the volume of cases, they are not concerned the inflow of new patients will overwhelm health care systems.

“We are undoubtedly in a better place than we were a month ago,” said Dr. Jorge Parada, Loyola Medicine’s regional director for infection prevention and control. “That said, the fact that we’re better than a disaster doesn’t mean we’re in a good place.”

Chicago health administrators the pandemic could change course in the following months as more kids are vaccinated and as Illinoisans are driven indoors by colder weather.

Pritzker said Illinois students will not be forced to get inoculated against COVID-19 for the current school year. IDPH chief Dr. Ngozi Ezike said, “that probably could change, much further down the line,” after the children’s vaccines receive full federal approval.

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