The statewide mask mandate in Illinois will likely remain in place through Thanksgiving, Illinois Department of Public Health Director (IDPH) Dr. Ngozi Ezike suggested this week.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) statewide mask mandate, which he announced in August, has no signs of ending as the holidays approach, despite the Democrat governor’s previous desire to “remove the mitigations as we approach the holidays.” However, with cases spiking in the state, IDPH Director Ezike is casting doubts on that timeline.
“As we’ve moved indoors, we haven’t maybe taken our masks indoors with us. So a lot of unmasked indoor gatherings are likely part of the problem,” Ezike said, according to WGEM. “Of course, COVID is so complicated. It’s been throwing us curveball after curveball.”
“We’d like to do everything we can (by) vaccinating, getting boosted, wearing our masks, you know encouraging other people to get vaccinated. All of that will help decrease these horrible statistics that we keep reporting and watching every day,” Ezike added.
The current mandate applies to those ages two and older, regardless of vaccination status.
Notably, the masked-up state is experiencing a spike in the coronavirus, experiencing one of the highest 14-day increases of coronavirus cases in the United States — +49 percent in the last two weeks alone.
Further, this week, the state topped 5,000 new cases of the virus for the first time in the last two months.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the answer is mass vaccination.
“For me, it’s especially an indication that now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t yet, and to make sure your kids are getting vaccinated,” Arwady said Tuesday.
“If we can get a lot of students vaccinated now, if we can get a lot of adults vaccinated and boosted ahead of the holidays, right now is the time to do that,” she added. “We wait a month, we wait two months — we could be in the middle of a larger surge.”
According to the New York Times’ coronavirus case tracker, last updated Thursday, Illinois is reporting a daily average of 3,112 cases, or 25 per 100,000. Meanwhile, mask-free states, particularly Florida, which never had a statewide mask mandate in place at any point during the pandemic, are reporting decreases in case counts in the same time frame. According to the Times’ data, Florida is tied with Hawaii for the lowest daily average of coronavirus cases per capita, standing at seven. Overall, the Sunshine State is reporting a daily average of 1,423 cases, representing a 19 percent decrease over the last two weeks.