SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The need for face coverings in most indoor spaces in Illinois was ending Monday as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic eases.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier announced that he would lift the mandate for masks to slow the spread of the deadly virus as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations fall. The Democratic governor intended that the requirement remain in effect for schools, where students and staff are more closely congregated, but other government action has invalidated that order.
While Pritzker announced Monday that the mask mandate in K-thru-12 schools and daycares would be lifted, some schools, including the nation’s third-largest district in Chicago, will continue requiring face coverings.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week that the city would also lift its mask mandate Monday, along with a requirement that people show proof of vaccination at places such as restaurants.
An appellate court last week declined to render a decision on a lower-court ruling that invalidated Pritzker’s order that public schools require masks. The 4th District Appellate Court decided the issue was moot after a legislative committee nixed an extension of the emergency rule the governor imposed on schools last summer. The Democratic governor appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Masks will remain the rule on the state House floor, where they’ve been challenged by Republicans. The Legislature has planned an abbreviated spring session that’s scheduled to end in early April. Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told members he doesn’t want to risk an outbreak that would derail work or worse, jeopardize family members of lawmakers who are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated.
The requirement has led to the regular removal from the floor of up to eight Republicans for refusing to comply, including Rep. Blaine Wilhour, of Beecher City, who filed a lawsuit against Welch.
State Senate officials are evaluating options.
On Monday, scores of happy visitors at Navy Pier enjoyed the warm sun. Alberto Perez and friends celebrated a birthday.
“It’s good to see that the weather is nice and we don’t have to wear the mask anymore,” Perez told WGN News.
“I’m just more than happy to be here without a mask because you can’t breathe in one of those,” Chicagoan Javier Ramos added.
It’s been a challenging year for Xavier Nova, Jessica Brito and family but today, all were smiling.
“We get to see the happiness,” Brito said. “The reactions of people that we don’t get to see with the mask.”