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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The requirement for face coverings in most indoor spaces in Illinois was ending Monday as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier announced that he would lift the mandate for masks to slow the spread of the deadly virus as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations fall.[1] He intended that the requirement remain in effect for schools, where students and staff are more closely congregated, but other government action has invalidated that order.

Most school districts in Illinois have already gone mask optional, with the primary exception being Chicago Public Schools. Chicago Public Schools is controlled by the whims of its powerful Teacher's Union that continues to insist that CPS students and parents fall in line with its unelected leadership's political goals. The CTU went on strike in early January, during which they negotiated mask requirements remain in place through at least the end of the school year.[2]

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week that the city would also lift its mask mandate Monday, along with a requirement that people show proof of vaccination at places such as restaurants.[3] The city will still require masks to be worn in health care settings and on public transportation.

An appellate court last week declined to render a decision on a lower-court ruling that invalidated Pritzker's order that public schools require masks. The 4th District Appellate Court decided the issue was moot after a legislative committee nixed an extension of the emergency rule the governor imposed on schools last summer.[4] The Democratic governor appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Masks will remain the rule on the state House floor, where they've been challenged by Republicans. The Legislature has planned an abbreviated spring session that's scheduled to end in early April. Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told members he doesn't want to risk an outbreak which would derail work or worse, jeopardize family members of lawmakers who are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated.

The requirement has led to the regular removal from the floor of up to eight Republicans for refusing to comply, including Rep. Blaine Wilhour, of Beecher City, who filed a lawsuit against Welch.

State Senate officials are evaluating options.

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Notes & References

  1. Press, Associated. “Pritzker to Lift Mask Mandate...except for Schools.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, February 9, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/pritzker-to-lift-mask-mandate-except-for-schools/. ↩︎

  2. Press, Associated. “CTU Leaders Give City Their Blessing to Resume in-Person Classes on Wednesday.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, January 11, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/ctu-leaders-give-city-their-blessing-to-resume-in-person-classes-on-wednesday/. ↩︎

  3. Chicago Journal. “City to Follow State, Will Lift Mask Order by Month's End.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, February 22, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/city-to-follow-state-will-lift-mask-order-by-months-end/. ↩︎

  4. Chicago Journal. “Supreme Court Declines Appeal and Gov. Pritzker Continues to Pretend He Controls Mask Mandates.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, February 26, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/supreme-court-declines-appeal-and-gov-pritzker-continues-to-pretend-he-controls-mask-mandates/. ↩︎