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Illinois ends its indoor mask mandate for most public places. Here's what to know.

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 3/10/2022 Chicago Tribune staff, Chicago Tribune
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, holds a face mask while speaking on Feb. 22, 2022, as the city announces it will be ending its indoor mask requirement in most locations on Feb. 28. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, holds a face mask while speaking on Feb. 22, 2022, as the city announces it will be ending its indoor mask requirement in most locations on Feb. 28.

Mask mandates have lapsed in Illinois and Chicago.

Masks still will be mandatory on public transportation and in places such as hospitals and day care centers, and businesses still can require them as they see fit. The city will also remove its order that requires businesses to check that customers are vaccinated.

Restaurants and businesses may also still require masks and vaccine cards — some Chicago-area establishments have already announced they intend to keep the provision.

CTA bus riders wear masks while boarding and disembarking on State Street on Feb. 23, 2022, in Chicago's Loop. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS CTA bus riders wear masks while boarding and disembarking on State Street on Feb. 23, 2022, in Chicago's Loop.

Many public health experts say the decision to lift the mandates is sound, as COVID-19 cases have declined and more hospital beds have freed up. But they advise people with certain health conditions, as well as those who are not vaccinated, to continue wearing masks, particularly an N95 or KN95.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided a backstop for the decision Friday by adjusting federal mask guidelines to focus less on COVID-19 cases and more on hospitalizations and health care capacity.

After the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a lower court order that blocked his school mask rule and the CDC came out with its new guidance, J.B. Pritzker said he would no longer require face coverings in schools. Most districts across Illinois had already gone mask optional or announced plans to do so next week. He left the door open to requiring masks in schools and other settings once again if Illinois is overcome by yet another surge.

Masked and unmasked people cross Michigan Ave. on Feb. 23, 2022. © Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS Masked and unmasked people cross Michigan Ave. on Feb. 23, 2022.

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Here’s what to know as the state enters a new phase, yet again, of the pandemic.

From relief to frustration, Chicago Public Schools parents react to mask mandate’s expected end — and another possible teachers union standoff

Amid dropping COVID-19 numbers and legal pressure, CPS announced this week that the mask mandate would be lifted Monday but not, it appears, without another fight with the CTU.

Ayesha Akhtar, seen at the Oak Park Library on Feb. 24, 2022, is an administrator of the popular Oak Park Coronavirus Facebook group, and decided to shut it down earlier this month. © Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS Ayesha Akhtar, seen at the Oak Park Library on Feb. 24, 2022, is an administrator of the popular Oak Park Coronavirus Facebook group, and decided to shut it down earlier this month.

The union, which went on strike months before the pandemic hit, initiated work stoppages in early 2021 and again this January in protest of what it said were lacking coronavirus safety measures in schools. Now the CTU has filed an unfair labor practice complaint over CPS’ removal of the mask mandate, calling it a unilateral violation of the January agreement.

Chicago Public School Kenwood Academy High School students return to school on Jan. 12, 2022. © Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicago Public School Kenwood Academy High School students return to school on Jan. 12, 2022.

>>> Read more here

Chicago Public Schools’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate challenged in court by employees

A small group of Chicago Public Schools employees is asking a judge to stop the district from enforcing its policy requiring staff members receive the COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing.

“The Plaintiffs are suffering continuing harm in that each is being subjected to an unlawful vaccination or testing policy without being provided their statutorily protected rights of due process of law,” read the paperwork downstate attorney Tom DeVore submitted Thursday to Sangamon County court.

Co-owner Austin Harvey stocks a fridge at Beermiscuous on Feb. 23, 2022. © Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS Co-owner Austin Harvey stocks a fridge at Beermiscuous on Feb. 23, 2022.

>>> Read more here

Chicago Public Schools to drop mask mandate on March 14; teachers union vows to fight the change without collective bargaining

Chicago Public Schools announced Monday it will make masks optional for staff and students at schools and on school buses beginning March 14, setting up another showdown with the Chicago Teachers Union over COVID-19 safety protocols.

The union said Monday it “will immediately be filing an unfair labor practice charge against the district in response, and requesting that CPS bargain over this decision.” Mandatory masking is one of the tenets of the COVID-19 safety agreement the teachers union forged with CPS in January after a bitter dispute led to five days of canceled classes.

A student arrives wearing a mask to Kozminski Community Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Feb. 7. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS A student arrives wearing a mask to Kozminski Community Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Feb. 7.

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Are we ready to leave masks behind? ‘It’s going to be weird’

For many around the state, Monday’s planned end to the mask mandate brings a constellation of emotions.

There’s some weariness for those who expect mask requirements to return in short order if cases once again spike. Some who are immunocompromised, or caring for ill family members, are frustrated and feel left behind. Some just feel weird without a mask on their face.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media as he visits Navy Pier on Feb. 28, 2022, as the mask mandate is dropped for most indoor public spaces. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media as he visits Navy Pier on Feb. 28, 2022, as the mask mandate is dropped for most indoor public spaces.

For others, there’s a sense of relief.

>>> Read more here


Video: Indoor Mask Mandate In Most Places To End On Feb. 28th (CBS Chicago)

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Bulls and Blackhawks fans no longer need to wear masks at the United Center, but COVID vaccination or negative test still required

Bulls and Blackhawks fans can ditch their masks for home games beginning in March as the United Center in Chicago eases its COVID-19 restrictions.

Students arrive at Patton Elementary School in Arlington Heights on Feb. 28, 2022. © Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS Students arrive at Patton Elementary School in Arlington Heights on Feb. 28, 2022.

The United Center announced Monday it will lift mask restrictions for attendees at upcoming concerts, Bulls and Blackhawks games following a statewide move to reduce mask requirements. Fans will still be required to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to enter the arena, but will not be required to wear a mask.

>>> Read more here

After 2 years of volatile debates, COVID-19 school mask mandate ends without fanfare in Illinois

Despite months of fervent parent protests, a flurry of lawsuits, and increasingly polarized communities where grievances have erupted between even the closest of neighbors, the Illinois school mask mandate ended without fanfare.

New Bulls center Tristan Thompson signs autographs for fans before a game against the Hawks at the United Center on Feb. 24, 2022. © Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS New Bulls center Tristan Thompson signs autographs for fans before a game against the Hawks at the United Center on Feb. 24, 2022.

Coinciding with the governor’s lifting of the mask mandate for the general public, and prompted by the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal rules also were relaxed for student transportation, with children no longer required to wear face masks while aboard a school bus.

>>> Read more here

Gov. J.B. Pritzker adds child care centers to list of places where masks are no longer required

Gov. J.B. Pritzker added child care centers to the list of public places where masks are no longer required, a move that his office said was the result of new federal guidelines issued late Friday.

Signs note the mask requirement inside City Hall on Feb. 22, 2022, as the city announces it will be ending its indoor mask requirement in most locations on Feb. 28. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Signs note the mask requirement inside City Hall on Feb. 22, 2022, as the city announces it will be ending its indoor mask requirement in most locations on Feb. 28.

The end of the mandate for day care centers comes as the majority of the children they serve — those 4 and younger — aren’t yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, though masks have never been recommended for those under 2.

>>> Read more here

Masks remain the rule in Chicago Public Schools ‘for now’ as rest of Illinois mostly ditches them; CEO says he’s reviewing guidance

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez reminded families in a Sunday letter that universal masking is still required in all of its schools and offices “for now.”

Martinez thanked families for their patience. He said the district is reviewing the latest recommendations on masks and “working with our labor and public health partners on how to preserve a safe, healthy learning environment for all as we transition into this new phase of the pandemic.”

>>> Read more here

Students arrive wearing masks to Kozminski Community Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Feb. 7, 2022. A judge tossed out the mask mandate for districts who were sued but Chicago Public Schools says it will stay the course and keep requiring masks. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS Students arrive wearing masks to Kozminski Community Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Feb. 7, 2022. A judge tossed out the mask mandate for districts who were sued but Chicago Public Schools says it will stay the course and keep requiring masks.

Masks can come off Monday in most places. After almost two years of COVID mandates, is this the end?

Just shy of the second anniversary of his proclamation declaring the coronavirus a statewide disaster, Gov. J.B. Pritzker will try again to turn the page on COVID-19 restrictions Monday when he lifts his much-contested mask mandate for most indoor public places.

But the end of mandatory masking in most settings represents a big step in getting back to normal, even though it comes as the highly unpredictable virus remains in wide circulation.

>>> Read more here

Most Chicago-area theaters and music clubs will keep COVID mask requirements after Feb. 28

For music, opera, dance and theatergoers, most venues are continuing their current COVID protocols.

A coalition of performing arts organizations (who together developed unified precautions ahead of state and municipal mask mandates last summer) met Feb. 21. The coalition, led by the League of Chicago Theatres, determined that in most cases masks and proof of vaccination will continue to be required of patrons.

>>> Read more here

A Chicago Public Schools employee receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in 2021. © Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS A Chicago Public Schools employee receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in 2021.

Masks are staying in Chicago Public Schools, but some parents clamor for ‘COVID-19 off-ramp’; Catholic schools drop rule

In CPS, the Chicago Parents Collective, a group formed early last year to push for a quicker return to in-person classes, put out a statement this week asking, “Where is the COVID-19 off-ramp for Chicago’s public school children?”

Group co-founder Nancy Griffin pointed out the city announced benchmarks for easing COVID-19 restrictions, but CPS did not.

Anthony Roberson, 46, picks up his 11-year-old son Aiden Roberson outside Skinner West Elementary School on March 9, 2022, in Chicago. © Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS Anthony Roberson, 46, picks up his 11-year-old son Aiden Roberson outside Skinner West Elementary School on March 9, 2022, in Chicago.

>>> Read more here

‘What do you do when you can’t agree on reality?’ Demise of popular Oak Park Coronavirus Facebook group highlights pandemic’s divisions

It was an abrupt end to a resource once seen as so vital that its founder, tech executive Josh Vanderberg, was named a Villager of the Year by the local newspaper. But in some ways, the group’s evolution tracked the course of the pandemic, as broad agreement on how to respond to COVID-19 curdled into discord.

>>> Read more here

Pritzker halts school mask mandate with arrival of new CDC guidance

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said new federal COVID-19 guidance unveiled Friday will allow the state of Illinois to remove its school mask mandate, coinciding with the halting of the hotly debated virus mitigation strategy for the general public.

Pritzker also applauded the Illinois Supreme Court, which earlier in the day sent a case challenging the mandate back to a downstate court. The high court had refused to take up the appeal after finding that an order by a Springfield judge that caused chaos and confusion in Illinois schools over masking was no longer in effect.

>>> Read more here

Most Americans can take a break from masks, new CDC guidelines say

The new system greatly changes the look of the CDC’s risk map and puts more than 70% of the U.S. population in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Those are the people who can stop wearing masks, the agency said.

The agency is still advising people, including schoolchildren, to wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high. That’s the situation in about 37% of U.S. counties, where about 28% of Americans live.

>>> Read more here

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