The Illinois mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced at a press conference today. Shortly after that, Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) shared that Chicago could follow suit.

Pritzker gave a COVID-19 update at the Thompson Center in Chicago. He discussed the upcoming removal of the mask mandate. 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.

These changes come amidst an overall trending decline in statewide positivity numbers, although the 5,825 confirmed cases and 87 deaths reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Feb. 8 is an increase from the previous two days when there were 4,701 and 3,687 reported cases on Feb. 7 and Feb. 6 respectively.

During the height of the highly contagious omicron variant in January, IDPH was recording over 44,000 cases per day and 198 daily deaths — statewide. Chicago alone was recording over 8,000 cases per day and a 20% citywide positivity rate. Now, the numbers have cooled significantly in Chicago to 561 cases per day, and 2.9% positivity rate.

After Pritzker’s press conference, CDPH announced in a post on Twitter that given a continued decline in the city’s leading COVID metrics, the city should be able to lift their vaccination and mask mandates at the same time.

“We are pleased with the progress that the City is making coming out of this Omicron surge, and are encouraged by the state’s reported plan to lift its mask mandate later this month,” the CDPH statement reads. 

The status of the mask mandate in schools statewide has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle. On Feb. 4, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow delivered a ruling in a lawsuit brought by hundreds of parents in more than 145 school districts who claim the mask order denies students due process. In her ruling, Grischow called the state’s requirement that people wear masks in schools “null and void,” effectively overturning the mandate. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is appealing the decision and asking for an expedited decision.

“It’s poorly written and it’s poorly decided, and it takes away one of the tools for prevention we have going forward,” Pritzker said in today’s press conference. “That case decided in one circuit court downstate in Sangamon county by one judge, shouldn’t keep us from trying to keep the entire state safe.”

Likewise, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) mask mandate is not affected by the downstate judge’s ruling. The recent downward trend in the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate has local officials calling for an end to the city’s proof of vaccination requirement enacted at the start of the new year. In a statement released Wednesday, signed by eleven alderpeople, they call for a reversal of the requirement by Friday, Feb. 11.

“The science tells us it is time to loosen the regulations that crippled both virus and business alike,” the statement reads. “If rescinded, Chicagoans and our visitors can enjoy both the super bowl, and Valentine’s day festivities mandate-free, granting them the ability to decide how best to protect themselves.”

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.