When will Chicago or Illinois lift its mask mandate?

Coronavirus

A visitor wearing a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 passes a sign requiring masks, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in San Antonio. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared masks or face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state as local officials across the state say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

CHICAGO Just 29 people are hospitalized with COVID-related illness in Chicago, a city with a population of 2.7 million people.

Despite the fact that just .001 percent of Chicago residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, the city’s indoor mask mandate remains, with no word on what specific circumstances will trigger its demise.

The indoor mask mandate went into effect on August 20 in Chicago. Health officials said it was because the average number of new daily cases surpassed 400.

“With case counts now rising back to this level, the risk has increased for everyone, even those who are vaccinated,” Chicago’s top doctor Alison Arwady said at the time.

This week, Chicago’s average daily case count is 422, down 4 percent from the previous week. Chicago is averaging 4 COVID-19-related deaths per day.

Much of Illinois is also seeing signs the summer surge in cases is behind us. New hospital admissions for COVID-related illness have been declining for nearly three weeks and now fewer than 2,000 people are hospitalized with the virus.

In a state with a population of 12.7 million people, COVID-related hospitalizations represent .015 percent of the population. Yet, Governor JB Pritzker’s administration has not said how close we are to lifting the statewide indoor mask mandate that went into effect August 30.

The Illinois Department of Public Health monitors several key metrics in determining mitigation levels. Those metrics include vaccination rates, case counts, hospitalization trends and intensive care bed availability. Statewide, 18 percent of in-use ICU beds are occupied by COVID patients. IDPH reports that 8 percent of people in the hospital are being treated for COVID-related illness.

In Southern Illinois, ICU space has been a significant issue with IDPH reporting none of nearly 90 ICU beds available in a region that covers more than 20 counties in recent days.

Several counties in that region report vaccination numbers at half the rate of Chicago and the rest of the state. Most regions in the Chicago-area have at least 15 percent of their ICU beds available.

The state previously set a target of 20 percent ICU availability for relaxing mitigations, but that was before vaccination rates climbed and vulnerable populations had been offered a chance at protection. Of eligible Illinois residents, 62 percent are now fully vaccinated with 79 percent having at least one dose.

Another sign that the worst may be behind us: despite a significant increase in testing, fewer tests are coming back positive, an indication the virus is not spreading as quickly.

Spokespeople for both the Chicago Department of Public Health and the IDPH did not respond to requests for clarification on what would trigger a lifting of the mask mandate.

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