Illinois Dropping Indoor Mask Rules Feb. 28; But Schools Will Remain Masked, Pritzker Says
BREAKING NEWS: Illinois will drop its indoor mask requirement starting Feb. 28, but the mandate will remain in place for all Illinois schools, Gov. JB Pritzker announced in a press conference today.
“We’re seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began,” Pritzker said, “Our daily total of patients has fallen…66 percent. Our ICU bed care has seen a 63 percent drop… as a result of that, if these trends continue, as we expect them to, then on Monday, Feb. 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the State of Illinois.”
Pritzker added that individual businesses may keep their own mask mandates in place, and that will be the decision of individual business owners. Patrons are expected to capitulate to the requests of businesses as needed.
“Masks continue to be a very effective way for businesses to keep their patrons safe and to stop the spread of the disease,” Pritzker said. “Whether we remove masks or not, covid-19 has not gone away.”
The announcement comes as Illinois covid numbers have fallen, from over 40,000 just a month ago to an average of 5,825 cases per day. In addition, there are now fewer than 3,000 patients currently COVID-positive in Illinois hospitals, whereas a month ago that number was almost tripled.
Illinois is averaging about 2,500 COVID hospitalizations, a 66 percent drop from the nearly 7,300 seen during the peak of the omicron surge in January. In addition, the number of daily patients requiring ICU care has also dropped 63 percent and 20 percent of state ICU beds are now available.
“My intention is as we’ve seen these numbers peak at about 7,400 hospitalizations, and heading downward significantly – we’re now I think under 2,500 hospitalizations, so that’s almost a third of where we were at the peak and heading even further downward – to lift the mask mandate in the indoor locations by Feb. 28,” the governor said. “And that… of course, we still have the sensitive locations of K-12 schools, where we have lots of people who are, you know, joined together in smaller spaces, thousands of people interacting in one location at a time. And so that’s something that will come weeks hence. But very importantly, things are getting better across the state of Illinois.”
“I’m hoping that we get to a place where we can remove masking requirements and keep kids in schools,” Pritzker said.
However, regardless of Gov. Pritzker’s announcement, many schools have already dropped it, or have seen a mass of students and parents who have unilaterally ended it.
Thousands of students and parents statewide in Illinois are defying Gov. JB Pritzker’s order for mask mandates in schools upon the announcement of Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow last week granting a request from downstate attorney Tom DeVore to temporarily halt the governor’s executive orders on masking and quarantining for schools.
Across social media, parents from schools throughout the state posted pictures and messages about their children not wearing masks anymore, and the parents posted celebratory messages calling for a permanent end to masks in schools and during school activities. Many parents shared pages from the ruling as well as screenshots from the grassroots conservative political action group in part driving the lawsuit, Awake Illinois.
“This court acknowledges the tragic toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, not only on this State, but throughout the nation and globe,” Grischow wrote in the decision. “Nonetheless, it is the duty of the Courts to preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the boundaries of the authority granted under the Constitution.
“The (Illinois Department of Public Health) is limited by law to delegating its authority only to certified local health departments and has not been authorized by the Legislature to delegate any of its authority to any other body of government, including school districts,” she wrote.
Gov. Pritzker vehemently disagreed with the decision, issuing a statement late Friday saying he asked the attorney general’s office for an immediate appeal of the decision.
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