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Fully Vaccinated Illinoisans Can Ditch Their Masks In Most Circumstances: Pritzker

Mike Smith
NPR Illinois 91.9 FM
Credit Mike Smith / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM
NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinoisans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear face masks in most circumstances, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker’s announcement follows updated guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

The updated executive order allows vaccinated people to ditch their masks, both outdoors and indoors, if they can safely social distance by at least six feet.

But masks are still required while using public transportation, while in crowds, congregate care facilities, other healthcare settings and schools. Businesses can also still require customers and employees to wear masks, and many businesses are still called to provide face coverings for their employees. But other big retail chains have announced they will also allow vaccinated people to enter stores without masks.

A panel of lawmakers who serve on the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules must also rejigger the state’s emergency rules on mask-wearing in businesses and penalties for failing to enforce the mandate. JCAR next meets on Tuesday in Springfield.

Pritzker has repeatedly said the state will not mandate vaccines or force Illinoisans to carry a so-called “vaccine passport” to prove their vaccination status. But the governor said lifting the state’s mask mandate takes trust and personal responsibility, and acknowledged there are unvaccinated Illinoisans who may be tempted to flout the rules.

“We are relying on people to do the right thing,” Pritzker said. “We are relying upon [unvaccinated] people to recognize that they don’t want to go infect other unvaccinated people and they don’t themselves want to get sick. And so it’s important for people to protect themselves and I think there’s real motivation for people to go get vaccinated as a result.”

Nearly 38% of Illinois’ total population is fully vaccinated, and 12- to 15-year-olds became eligible for COVID shots last week, which officials hope will accelerate vaccine uptake after a slowdown in the last month.

Pritzker said for some people, including himself, this transition will take some adjustment.

“I tentatively walked out of my home without my mask on for the first time in quite some time, going to work…I have to think about it a little more, I must admit,” Pritzker said. “There are times when I don't want others to feel uncomfortable. That's just a courtesy, in my view.”

Illinois on Friday entered a “Bridge Phase” to normalcy, wherein maximum capacities at businesses and social gatherings have increased in accordance with the state’s progress on vaccines and reductions in COVID hospitalizations.

If Illinois doesn’t see a major spike in hospitalizations or see a significant reduction in ICU bed availability, the state will be on track to be rid of all COVID-related capacity limits on June 11.

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She previously covered the statehouse for The Daily Line and Law360, and also worked a temporary stint at the political blog Capitol Fax in 2018.
Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session.