As Chicago mask mandate lifted for vaccinated, nurses union disagrees with CDC guidance

Thursday, May 20, 2021
Nurses disagree with Chicago's lifting of mask mandate
Chicago health officials have decided to lift the city's mask mandate in line with CDC guidance, but the National Nurses Union strongly disagrees.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago will follow Illinois and new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to lift the face mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced Tuesday. The hope is it will encourage more people to get their shots.

Arwady said that masks will still be mandated in all city of Chicago buildings. Masks will also still be required in all healthcare settings, schools, correctional facilities and on public transportation.

Arwady said the city strongly advises for face masks to be worn in indoor settings at places that are unable to verify vaccine status until the city reaches Phase 5 of reopening.

WATCH | Chicago announces it will lift mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents

Dr. Allison Arwady provides an update on Chicago's face mask guidelines.

National Nurses United is cautioning against easing restrictions. The union will held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss what they claim is faulty science behind the CDC'S new guidelines on wearing masks.

"The science show this is exactly the wrong time to be relaxing, our multi-pronged approach to infection control that studies show actually work to control the virus," said Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United. "As a nation, we are logging very high infection numbers only 37% of people are vaccinated, new variants of concern are growing by the week, and there are still so many other unknowns."

They said the studies cited by the CDC are incomplete, and believe people should still keep their masks on, vaccinated or not, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The nurses said the science guiding the CDC ignores the fact COVID-19 can still be passed by asymptomatic people, keeping the virus in circulation, allowing it to mutate. Masks, social distancing and hand washing *together with vaccinations they insist remains the best public health policy.

The Illinois Nurses Association concurs with the national group, saying the CDC has bowed to public pressure from a pandemic weary society, and that vaccine availability for vulnerable populations, primarily working class Black and brown people is the challenge, not overcoming hesitancy to get jabbed.

And there are important questions about vaccines that remain on answer. We don't know how long protection will last. We don't know how effective vaccines are at preventing asymptomatic and mild infections, which are important to prevent because they can cause long term health impacts or long COVID and may transmit the virus. It is also not clear how well vaccines will protect from variants of concern that are more transmissible deadlier, and already are, or may become resistant to vaccines.

The new guidelines have caused confusion among many, including businesses owners that can't or won't check vaccination status of customers.

That means indoor diners in Chicago can now order up without masking up, once they are two weeks out from their final vaccination shot.

"Really at this point, as you know, enforcement is a challenge," Arwady said.

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The city's new mask guidelines come after a flood of complaints from businesses struggling to navigate how to determine who's really vaccinated and who's just saying they are.

"We're doing our best to kind of roll with the punches. In the meantime, we're still trying to provide as safe an environment as possible. But we're, we're not going to argue with guests that say they're vaccinated," said Scott Weiner, with The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.

For businesses that do check to see if all employees and customers are vaccinated there is an incentive: Capacity and social distancing restrictions would be lifted.

WATCH | 1st workplace vaccinations given out in downtown Chicago

Employees at the Merchandise Mart and at the Wrigley Building were able to get vaccinated on the job Monday.

But for businesses that can't or won't check vaccination status of customers, the city is urging a more cautious approach to masks.

"We continue to strongly advise, though not require, masking policies for all indoor settings in Chicago," Dr. Arwady said.

The announcement comes after Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday that Illinois would be following the new CDC guidelines on face masks, removing the mandate from people who are fully vaccinated.

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Two of the CDC's exceptions to the new mask guidance are that people should still wear them in hospitals and nursing homes.

The nurses union said they want the CDC to revise their guidelines.