Gov. JB Pritzker mask mandate to end Feb. 28
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago and suburban Cook County health officials said they anticipate that the city's proof of vaccine requirement and indoor mask mandate will lift around the same time as the state's, but many residents say they'll be keeping their face coverings on.
Gov. JB Pritzker said he anticipates the state's indoor mask mandate for venues that are not schools, hospitals and public transit will lift on Feb. 28 as COVID hospitalizations continue to drop.
"We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began," he said Wednesday.
Shortly after, Chicago health officials released their own statement, saying if the city continues to see declines in these leading COVID metrics, it, too, should be in a position to lift restrictions at that time.
Proof of vaccination would no longer be required for patrons of restaurants, bars and gyms, along with the indoor mask mandates applying to those spaces in the city.
As with the state, the changes would not apply to public transit, health care facilities or schools, and business owners can still impose stricter requirements if they want to.
Reaction has been mixed.
Restauranteur George Willborn III said with no masks requires he hopes to see a bump in revenue at his restaurant Truth Italian Restaurant in Bronzeville.
"It's huge, we've had to turn down a lot of people and a lot of new customers who come from out of state and really didn't have the same laws as other states," he said.
Norman Bolden, owner of Norman's Bistro, Haven Entertainment and Room 43, hopes he won't lose more customers who are uncomfortable when mask and vaccine protocols go away.
"So moving in this direction of it no longer being required, I'm certain there will be a percentage of people who will be reluctant to come out into public spaces," he said.
And many people have no plans to take their masks off any time soon.
"People are still catching COVID, it's not going anywhere, and I chose not to catch it," said William Salaam.
The owner of Issues Barber and Beauty Salon said it's mask optional for customers while most of the staff is choosing to continue wearing their masks.
"A lot of people don't have the vaccine and a lot of businesses suffered because a lot of people couldn't come out then," Yvenetta Welch said.
But without the mandate, Mohammed Rauf said he won't feel safe and may choose to limit going out.
"I don't feel safe without the mask," he said.
Naomi Sharif is also cautious as we move toward life that seems a little more normal.
"I'll be 81 on February 18," she said. "I want other people to live and I want to live, so I'm going to wear my mask."
Diners at Lou Mitchell's in the West Loop area were mulling over the big transition Thursday morning.
"Well, I think after 2020 we all feel a little uncomfortable moving forward about how we submerge ourselves in large groups, but, personally, I think it's something we just have to take our chances with," diner Jevon Smith said.
Frances Trimble thinks the rollback is a bit premature, especially when it comes to big, indoor group settings.
"No, I like to be safe 'cause I ain't got time for that," she said.
Meanwhile Theresa Heredia thinks easing restrictions is a step in the right direction.
"I think, you know, I'll still proceed with caution, you know; it is a little scary, but I feel like we have to get on with our lives at some point, you know?" she said.
The Cook County Department of Public Health said it also anticipates that if key metrics continue to improve, the vaccination and masking orders for suburban Cook County, except for Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney Township, who said they are still reviewing what to do, can be lifted in the same timeframe Pritzker laid out Wednesday.