Chicago mask and vaccine mandate to lift for some in line with state's plan

Chicago COVID: IL mask mandate ending Feb. 28

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Mask mandate Chicago: City to lift COVID restrictions with state
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the key metrics of cases and hospitalization numbers are putting Chicago in position to no longer require masks in most indoor spaces.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced Tuesday the city will remove the mask and vaccine requirements for certain public spaces Monday. This is in alignment with the state of Illinois' plan.

Lightfoot said the key metrics of cases and hospitalization numbers are putting Chicago in a position to no longer require masks in most indoor spaces.

She said she is also dropping the proof of vaccination requirement.

"Because we are now on the downward slope of that surge, we don't believe that there is any further need for these mandates," said Lightfoot. "It's important for us to recognize this moment for what it is -- a huge step forward in our effort to overcome COVID-19."

Officials said COVID cases are down 97% from the late December peak.

At XEX Salon, the news that the mask mandate is about to end is providing a sense of relief. The owner said he and his staff are ready to be done wearing face coverings

"I feel it's good. I mean, I feel like everyone's ready, here in Chicago is ready," said David Perry, founder of XEX Salon. "People are ready to move on. I feel like the numbers have dropped so dramatically that the safety value is there."

The city said business owners may still impose their own mandates if they choose.

The owner of Nuevo Leon in Little Village said she got a lot of push back for requiring the vaccination cards. She's hoping some of the regulars come back.

"Our hands won't be as tied anymore. We will be able to serve and do what our industry has taught us to do," said Laura Gutierrez.

"It's a sign we are going toward an endemic, where we know COVID won't be going away in the near future, but we are able to live with it in ways that keep people safe and in ways that keep our economy fully open," said Sam Toia, Illinois Restaurant Association president and CEO.

But some restaurant workers say they will opt to wear masks, and other venues and productions are keeping their requirements for now.

WATCH: Cook County Health doctor discusses COVID restrictions lifting

"We shouldn't take it lightly that we are still dealing with the pandemic, just because the mandate is lifted doesn't mean the pandemic is going away," said Trillis Rollins, Peach's chef and manager.

Broadway in Chicago, the Symphony Center and the Lyric Opera all said they will continue to require masks, and require proof of vaccination for audience members after the end of February.

"We want people to be confident that we have their health and well-being as our overriding priority," said Anthony Freud, president and CEO of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Chicago-area theaters were hit hard by pandemic shutdowns.

Many shows had to be canceled or rescheduled or scrapped all-together.

Some live venues have also decided to keep the no food and drink policy in place, as well.

"We're sitting next to strangers that we don't know, so it is the safest thing," theatergoer Kevin Parliament said.

And masks will still be required in hospitals, on public transit and in Chicago Public Schools.

READ MORE: Pritzker to lift Illinois mask mandate for some

The United Center is also still reviewing protocols in light of the city's announcement.

The city's public health director is not anticipating a huge surge in COVID-19 cases after next week.

"We always expect as we lift some mitigations that we'll see a little bit of a resurgence," Arwady said. "One of the reasons why we don't want to move too soon is to make sure that at the time that we lift that we can tolerate a little bit of an increase there. I'm very confident that the next short while here is likely to be reasonably calm."

The news gives salon customer Khit Masoud a big reason so smile, and soon ditch the mask.

"If people want to wear one, great, wear one," said Masoud. "But we also have the choice and, you know, it's that whole, you know, human interaction that we can get back to where we can start paying attention to people's body language, when they're smiling when they're mad, you know, just simple things like that."

Suburban Cook County also plans to drop its mask and vaccine mandates Monday, but will still strongly recommend masks in schools.