Pritzker follows CDC rules on masks, relaxes COVID-19 mandates

Pritzker follows CDC rules on masks, relaxes COVID-19 mandates

Illinois is following new CDC guidelines on masks and social distancing for fully vaccinated people; Pritzker pushes vaccinations, says masks stay on for unvaccinated; Chicago mandates remain

Masks and social distancing rules have been relaxed in Illinois for those two weeks past their COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said May 17.

“With public health experts now saying fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, I’m pleased to follow the science and align Illinois’ policies with the CDC’s guidance,” Pritzker said. “I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn’t over yet.”

But Chicago has yet to relax its pandemic rules.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed mask mandates for fully vaccinated people outdoors, even in large gatherings, and in most indoor settings May 13. Pritzker announced May 14 he intended to revise his mandates to match as the state entered the “Bridge Phase” added in March to his pandemic reopening protocol.

Because the vaccines have not been approved for children under 12, schools still require masks. Crowded indoor settings such as planes, buses, homeless shelters and prisons also still require masks for everyone. But workplaces, schools and most other indoor settings can be mask-free – again for those fully vaccinated.

Pritzker encouraged more people to get vaccinated.

“If you’re unvaccinated, you are not protected,” he said. “So I encourage people who are unvaccinated still to wear their masks but to go get vaccinated because I think we all want to get past this we all would like to take off our masks.”

Illinois’ full vaccinations were at 58% for those 16 and older, 64% for those 18 and older and 86% for those 65 and older.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the CDC guidance is not yet clear enough to relax mandates in the city, and she’s masking up when she’s uncertain whether those around her are vaccinated or not.

“It’s great to say you don’t need to wear masks if you’re fully vaccinated, but that raises a whole set of questions that I think, perhaps, they didn’t clearly anticipate,” Lightfoot said. “So I think some clarification is needed and I expect that to be coming soon.”

Here are the CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people, which Pritzker has now adopted but Lightfoot has not:

  • Resume activities without masks or social distancing, except where required by federal, state or local mandates, including local business and workplace guidance
    • Resume domestic travel without testing or self-quarantine
    • Refrain from testing before international travel, unless required by the destination, and no need to self-quarantine after returning
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
    • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
    • Refrain from routine screening testing
  • Still get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
    • Still follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

Illinois is struggling to recover from the pandemic economic downturn, which hit it harder than most states because its economy was in worse shape ahead of COVID-19. More than 450,000 idled workers were still collecting unemployment as of May 8.

For more than a year, the lives of Illinois residents have been dictated by a governor who has been allowed to issue disaster declarations 16 times. He’s ruled almost entirely by executive order. It’s definitely time for fewer rules, and maybe time state lawmakers discuss if it was the best way to run a state.

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