Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday announced that masks will now be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors. Also, the state is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all healthcare workers, pre-K-12 teachers and staff, higher education personnel and students.
The state is issuing the mandates as the Delta variant causes spikes of cases, especially in parts of the state with low vaccination rates.
In Illinois Department of Public Health region 5, Southern Illinois, has the lowest vaccination rate in the state at 44%. Only 3% of ICU beds are available as the region experiences the highest case rate in the state. Since Aug. 1 local health departments across the state have reported 27 COVID-19 outbreaks at schools and currently hundreds of schools are being monitored for potential COVID-19 exposures.
“The quick spread of this disease in Illinois and across the country is holding us all back from the post-pandemic life we so desperately want to embrace, and it’s harming the most vulnerable among us,” said Pritzker. “We are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds. Vaccination remains our strongest tool to protect ourselves and our loved ones, to restore post-pandemic life to our communities, and most crucially, to maintain our healthcare system’s ability to care for anyone who walks through their doors in need of help – and Illinois is taking action to keep our communities safe.”
“Unlike the wave of COVID-19 we saw earlier this Spring, we’re now seeing our hospital resources stretched thin with some areas of Illinois reduced to only a handful of available ICU beds,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The vast majority of hospitalizations, as well as cases and deaths, are among those who are unvaccinated. This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We have safe, proven, and effective tools to turn the tide and end this pandemic. But until more people are vaccinated, masks are the order of the day and will help us slow the spread of the virus.”
The mandates go into effect on Monday, Aug. 30.
While face coverings are not required outdoors, masks are strongly encouraged in crowded outdoor settings like festivals and concerts as well as for activities that require close contact with people who are not vaccinated.