Starting this Friday, August 20, Chicago residents must wear masks indoors as the city reinstates a mask mandate as the average number of new daily cases of COVID-19 in Chicago surpasses 400. All individuals aged two and over, regardless of their vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask as of Friday while indoors in public settings.
After removing the mask mandate in June following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chicago health officials say masks are now required in all indoor public settings. This includes bars and restaurants, gyms, common areas of condos and multi-residential buildings, and private clubs.
Patrons in restaurants can remove their masks when they are actively eating and drinking. Masks can also be removed for certain activities that require their removal, such as beard shaves or facials. Additionally, masks can be removed by employees in settings that are not open to the public, if employees are static and maintaining at least six feet from all other individuals.
The latest mandate also applies to guests visiting the Black Women’s Expo this weekend at McCormick Place. At least 25,000 people are expected to attend the three-day indoor event. Event founder and organizer Merry Green said on WVON that because her event was the only one being held at McCormick Place this weekend, she was granted an even bigger space normally occupied by the Chicago Auto Show. During her conversation with WVON host Perri Small on Tuesday, August 17, Green said she had turned away applicants for booths after all spaces had sold out.
The Black Women’s Expo was canceled last year because of the pandemic. In previous years, multiple events were held at the same time as the Expo at McCormick Place. This year’s event will include vaccination stations in addition to its usual lineup of entertainment and vendor booths.
Masks remain mandatory on the CTA and public transportation, in health care settings, schools, and correctional and congregate settings. However, the new public health order does not include capacity limits at public places, and masking remains optional in outdoor settings, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower. Masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded outdoor settings.
“With the highly transmissible Delta variant causing case rates to increase, now is the time to reinstitute this measure to prevent further spread and save lives,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “We continue to track the data closely and are hopeful this will only be temporary and we can bend the COVID curve, as we’ve done in the past.”
Last weekend, a COVID-19 testing station operated in the parking area of Jeffery Plaza in South Shore. At the Bud Billiken Parade, vaccination stations were available for spectators.
Because more than 70 percent of Chicago adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Chicago’s rates of COVID hospitalization and death are much lower than they were in 2020at the same case rate.
“But with case counts now rising back to this level, the risk has increased for everyone, even those who are vaccinated,” said Dr. Arwady. “The time to act is now to prevent further spread. Chicago residents who have not yet been vaccinated should get a vaccine as soon as possible, it will protect you and your loved ones from the risk of serious illness or even death.”