Changes to the Illinois Mask Mandate

On Wednesday, February 9th, Illinois Gov. Pritzker announced that he has a plan to end the mask mandate in Illinois. “I think all of us are getting tired of wearing masks, that’s for sure, but I have to say –  an enormous compliment to the people of Illinois. We have done such a good job – you have done such a good job of keeping each other safe,” said Pritzker.

“We have lots of people who are vulnerable – who are seniors, who are immunocompromised, and lots of people who don’t know that they’ve got an underlying condition, that when they’ve been hit with COVID-19, it devastates them and unfortunately we’ve seen many, many people die.”

The Omicron variant is causing less hospitalizations in Illinois, which may have prompted the mask mandate policy changes. According to The Washington Post’s tracking, Illinois has a -43% decline in cases this past week. With the Omicron surge beginning to decline, mask mandates may become more relaxed nationwide, as was seen during the summer of 2021. Gov. Pritzker’s announcement comes at the heels of a moment of hope for the end of Omicron.

“So, my intention is, as we’ve seen these numbers peak at about 7,400 hospitalizations and heading downward significantly – we’re now, I think, under 2,500 hospitalizations so that’s almost a third of where we were at the peak – and heading even further downwards,” said Pritzker.

Pritzker plans “[…] to lift the mask mandate in indoor locations by February 28th. And, of course, we still have the sensitive locations of K-12 schools, where we have lots of people who are joined together in smaller spaces, thousands of people interacting in one location at a time. So that’s something that will come weeks hence, but very importantly, things are getting better across the state of Illinois […]”.

While K-12 schools will continue to remain masked, colleges may make their own decisions. Southeastern Illinois College, for example, announced on its website that the mask requirement at Southeastern is expected to end on March 1st, 2022. However, Western Illinois University’s policy has not been changed or updated since Pritzker’s announcement on Wednesday, February 9th.

President Wyatt sent an email following Gov. Pritzker’s announcement on February 9th telling students that while Pritzker has changed the mask requirement for the state, Monmouth College will be deciding on a path after deliberation. President Wyatt wrote, “The College’s COVID-OPS group will consider the Governor’s announcement and determine how it may affect our practices and protocols. Please continue to follow current practices on campus for the time being.”

Monmouth College’s decision has not been finalized, and the topic was covered at a Scots Round Table discussion on Tuesday, February 15th to allow students to deliberate on the issue of mask mandates and campus requirements.

Carrie King – Editor and Chief

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