The Chicago mask and vaccination mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced at a press conference today. This announcement from Lightfoot comes two weeks after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Feb. 9 press conference where he marked Feb. 28 as the last day of the statewide mask mandate.

Lightfoot was joined by Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady in her optimism about Chicago’s progress in recovery since the omicron surge.

“I feel very confident that we are moving in the right direction,” Lightfoot said. “Make no mistake, I will not hesitate, nor will Dr. Arwady, to take the steps that are necessary to protect lives.”

The mandate removal won’t apply across the board in all public spaces. The mandate will remain in place in schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, congregate settings such as prisons and shelters, and spaces governed by other guidelines like public transportation, which follows federal regulation, and daycares that follow Department of Children and Family Services guidelines. Additionally, venues can make the decision of whether to implement their own mask and vaccination restrictions as they see fit.

Lightfoot had said that Chicago would have to register low-risk for community transmission and risk in four categories including cases per day, positivity rate, ICU beds and non-ICU beds. During the height of the highly contagious omicron variant in January, Chicago alone was recording over 8,000 cases per day and a 20% citywide positivity rate. At the moment, Chicago’s seven-day rolling averages as of Feb. 22 sit at 283 cases per day, 1.5% test positivity, with 239 non-ICU COVID hospitalizations, and another 80 COVID patients in ICU beds across the city. These numbers— with the exception of the number of cases per day which are at “substantial risk”— are considered low risk by CDPH.

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“Whenever we reverse some restrictions we expect a small surge in cases,” Arwady said. “It’s still important for people to stay home when they’re sick until they get a negative COVID test.” 

According to a press alert before the conference, Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez was scheduled to join today’s press conference, however, Martinez was not present. When asked about why the CPS CEO wasn’t in attendance, Lightfoot didn’t answer directly but added that she expects an announcement from CPS in the coming days.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.
is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.