Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has vowed to remove the state’s mask mandate “as soon as possible,” while emphasizing residents’ health as a top priority.
Pritzker reinstated the state’s mask mandate in August amid the burgeoning delta variant and has discussed in recent days the possibility of dropping the requirement amid improving COVID-related numbers.
At a Monday press conference, Pritzker revealed what metric he was looking at when deciding whether to overturn the mask mandate — hospitalizations.
As hospitalizations “decline significantly,” Pritzker said he is consulting with Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and state epidemiologists to determine when and how the mandate should be survey.
“I think we all want to be able to take the masks off, our job is also to keep everyone healthy and to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” the governor said.
Hospitalizations surpassed record highs in mid-January when, at one point, only 9% of intensive care unit beds across the state were open. As of Monday, 20% of the state’s 2,963 intensive care beds were available, according to IDPH data.
While case numbers and hospitalizations have improved, concerns remain about a possible COVID surge in the future.
Pritzker highlighted the COVID-19 situation last summer when the state scrapped its mask requirement following a drop in hospitalizations and other COVID measures. The numbers began to rise weeks later, leading Illinois to reenforce its mask mandate in August.
If the state decides to lift the mask requirement, it can be reinstated again – if needed.
“Even if we remove the requirement for people to wear masks in various settings, in the future we may want people to put their masks back on,” the governor said Monday.
Pritzker plans to provide additional guidance in the “coming days”, he said Monday.
Illinois is one of nine states that currently require masks to enter indoor public spaces.