Pritzker hopes to lift mask mandate by holidays as COVID cases dip

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker offered a potential timeline for lifting Illinois’ mask mandate as coronavirus case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend downward.

The governor suggested that Illinoisans may rid themselves of masks by the holidays. However, by week’s end, the CDC will release its recommendation on who should get booster shots for each of the COVID-19 vaccines. Tuesday was the start of a statewide campaign to increase booster rates.    

With federal regulators set to expand the number of Americans eligible for COVID boosters, Pritzker urged residents to schedule a shot.

“Most Americans who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be eligible to get a booster shot in the coming weeks and months,” Pritzker said.

The FDA has authorized a dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for seniors, adults with health concerns, or people whose jobs put them at a higher risk of getting COVID. 

As for Johnson and Johnson, the FDA says anyone who received the single dose shot should get a second shot at least two months after the first shot. 

“Get your booster shot so that you can get even more protected than you are today,” Pritzker said.

The state placed a particular emphasis on reaching people 65 and older. Illinois agencies are now working to provide boosts shots to those who may not travel to get one.

“It’s fall again and we saw last fall of last year the devastating impact that COVID-19 had in our long-term care facilities,” said Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We do know that advanced age is one of the most significant risk factors in breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths.”

Pritzker said that seniors are 29 times more likely to end up in the hospital if unvaccinated.

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Looking ahead, Pritzker said he’d like to rescind the indoor mask mandate before the holiday, but the state still has a ways to go.

“Obviously, we want to remove the mitigations as we approach the holidays,” Pritzker said. “That’s an important marker for us.”

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