Evanston Township High School reinstates indoor mask mandate amid rising COVID cases in suburb

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- With just a few days left in the school year, it's back to mandatory masks for Evanston Township High School students.

"Last night we got an email and today we walked in and they were like you can't come in without a mask," student Maya Cooper said.

"It's hard to get all the students on board when you keep going back and forth," student Sam Kuhrman said.

Bringing back the mask mandate is in response to the city of Evanston moving up to the CDC category of "high" risk last week because of an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

While many students complained about being given a short notice Sunday night about the mandate taking effect Monday, they understand why masks are needed.

"If it's really that important, it's better to stay safe than sorry," student Joseph Erner said.

"I feel like it's a good idea to bring back masks in schools because the numbers are going up, but problem for me is, I'm hard of hearing," student Jordan Banks said. "It's hard when it's hot out and you're sweating on your masks."

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While the high school is requiring masks, the city of Evanston is not. Health officials continue to recommend masks indoors, but is stopping short of a mandate. And there are no plans to bring back mask requirements in Chicago or on the state level.

"These are difficult decisions," said Dr. Sadiya Khan, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. "There's a lot of people impacted when we talk about mandatory masking or mandating anything, there is a lot of pushback."

Because of the pushback, medical experts are not surprised public health departments are stopping short of mandates. But with the graduation and wedding season upon us, doctors strongly recommend wearing masks at any indoor gathering.

"Anytime you are in a large gathering, odds are someone there is about to get sick or was sick," Khan said.

While masks are uncomfortable for some Evanston students, they only have to wear them for two more weeks. Seniors are already done. And since the beginning of the pandemic, teachers have not given finals.

Evanston's Health and Human Services has made the following recommendations based on CDC guidelines:

-Wearing a mask indoors in public irrespective of vaccination status including K-12 schools and other indoor public settings
-Wearing a mask or respirator that provides greater protection if you are a high risk individual for severe disease

-Wearing a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or have had an exposure to someone with COVID-19
-Socializing outdoors if possible and avoiding poorly ventilated indoor settings
-Getting tested before attending a family or public event. Home tests are ideal for this purpose
- Contacting your doctor right away to get treatment for COVID-19 if you are diagnosed
- Staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
- Following CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.

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