At an afternoon press conference today, in response to questions around whether or not Chicago will lift its COVID-19 mandates, Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is not quite where it needs to be to lift its mask and vaccination card mandates by the end of this month.

Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the mask mandate for Illinois will be lifted on Feb. 28. Shortly after that announcement, CDPH shared that Chicago could follow suit if case numbers continue to decline.

“We are getting close. Certainly, we’re watching the end of the month as the state is,” Arwady said on Tuesday. 

When Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Dec. 21, 2021 that the city will enter a vaccination mandate beginning Jan. 3, the city averaged 1,776 confirmed COVID-19 cases a day, according to data from CDPH. That was the highest daily average since December 2020.

The numbers have cooled significantly since then. Chicago is currently averaging 431 cases a day and a 2.0% positivity rate, according to recent data from the CDPH. 

To measure the risk of COVID-19 transmission, city officials use metrics that include the number of confirmed cases, the test positivity rate, the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and the number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).

To remove the mask and vaccine mandate, Arwady said three of those four metrics would need to reach lower transmission risk. Today, the 431 confirmed cases average is in the high-risk level, the 2.0% test positivity is in the lower risk level, and hospital and ICU are in the substantial risk category with 376 non-ICU COVID-19 patients and 115 ICU COVID-19 patients.


When the state lifts its mask mandate at the end of the month, Pritzker said, the only places where the mandate will remain in place are 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 which follow Department of Children and Family Services guidelines.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Arwady applauded an increase in vaccinations among Black Chicagoans. Now, 60% of Black, non-Latinx Chicagoans have had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 53.6% are fully vaccinated. 

On Feb. 14, during an unrelated press conference, Lightfoot was asked if the city would lift the vaccine and mask mandate alongside the state on Feb. 28.

“Feb 28 is the date that the state said. That is not the date that the city said,” Lightfoot told reporters. “I think we’re making great progress. Dr. Arwady and I will have more to say on that later this week. But, I don’t want to put an artificial date on when this is gonna happen when we still see some danger signs in the data.”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.