Pritzker mask mandate today: Illinois requirements to end Feb. 28
CHICAGO (WLS) -- While COVID case numbers and hospitalizations have been on a downward trend in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot wouldn't commit Monday to eliminating the mask and vaccine mandate in indoor spaces by the end of the month, in line with the state's plan.
Lightfoot said the city is "making tremendous progress" in bringing down COVID-19 cases, but added that 500 cases per day is "not where we want to be," saying "we're still seeing too many people dying every day from COVID."
"I don't want to put an artificial date on when this is going to happen when we still see some danger signs in the data," Lightfoot said. "February 28 is obviously the date that the state set; it's not the date that the city set."
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is averaging 431 cases per-day, above the 400 cases-per day threshold signaling high transmission.
Dr. Arwady said they are using case numbers, test positivity, hospital bed availability and ICU bed availability to make determinations on COVID mitigations, with three of four metrics needing to be in blue or green level for low transmission.
Currently the test positivity is in the lower transmission range, with ICU availability and hospital availability possibly moving into the lower transmission category soon, Dr. Arwady said.
"Certainly if the difference the matter of a few days between where the city is and where the state is recommending, I would expect we would go along with that, but we need to see these metrics be in blue or green," Dr. Arwady said.
When it comes to lifting mitigations, Dr. Arwady said they may have a clearer picture next week, but that the city.
Last week, 23rd Ward Alderman Silvana Taberes joined other aldermen urging the mayor to ease restrictions.
"When politicians are not on the same page, it's very frustrating to our neighborhood businesses," Tabares said. "What I hear from residents is they're sick and tired, and it's not just of COVID. They want politicians across Illinois, the state of Illinois, to get on the same page."
And many business owners are getting frustrated with the city, especially those in the restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Laura Gutierrez owns Nuevo Leon in the Little Village neighborhood and was looking forward to the governor easing COVID restrictions come Feb. 28, but then her hopes were dashed when the mayor said the city is not on the same timeline as the state.
Gutierrez said she has encountered more angry customers since the vaccine mandate went into effect in January. She said she has been spit on and has lost business for complying with city requirements, and she is upset that the city and the state are not on the same page.
"We the business owners are done. We're exhausted. Our hands are cuffed at the end of the day. The city has our hands cuffed with these ordinances," she said.
But Vermillion restaurant owner Rhoni Dey doesn't think the city has gone far enough.
"I would go further than the city," she said. "It's not just masking. I think vaccinations is at the core of it. I think anyone who steps into indoor spaces needs to be vaccinated."
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," Pritzker said last week.
So when will the city of Chicago ease or remove mask and vaccine mandates? Mayor Lightfoot isn't ready to commit yet.
"We're using the same set of data and metrics that we've used throughout the pandemic," Lightfoot said. "We're making progress, but we're not there yet."'
Those metrics include having three of four data points in the "lower transmission" threshold. Those include cases diagnosed per day, seven-day rolling average for test positivity, hospital beds occupied by COVID patients and ICU beds occupied by COVID patients.
The mayor did say they hope to have an update on the status of those mandates later this week.