Illinois is loosening mask rules — but changes won’t apply to schools, daycares for now

A young boy wearing a blue face mask and a gray shirt looks at a book. Next to him a young girl with a yellow face mask and a pink shirt looks at another book. Both are at a lime green desk or table.
Illinois is loosening mask rules, but changes won’t apply to schools and daycares for now (Youngrae Kim for Chalkbeat)

Even as the state loosens restrictions for residents who have been vaccinated, officials will continue to require students and educators in Illinois schools and daycares to wear masks. 

The state clarified its position on schools after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Monday that Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing in more indoor and outdoor settings, aligning with the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance last week. 

Chicago health officials said Tuesday that the city will no longer require fully vaccinated residents to wear masks indoors. According to public health data, 44% of Chicago residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday.  

“With public health experts now saying fully vaccinated people can safely remove their masks in most settings, I’m pleased to follow the science and align Illinois’ policies with the CDC’s guidance,” said Pritzker in a press release. 

He continued, “I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution as this pandemic isn’t over yet.”

Nationally, the debate over mask wearing has become polarized, and schools are caught in the middle. It’s not clear how the new guidance will impact school districts’ summer programming or reopening schools in the fall. 

Chicago Public Schools has not yet spelled out its fall requirements and Pritzker’s recent announcement did not address the next academic year. 

The chancellor of New York City Schools, Meisha Porter, told Staten Island parents this week that she foresaw continuing masking requirements in the nation’s largest school district into the fall. Meanwhile, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado announced last Friday that the state will phase out mask requirements in schools, if districts agree.

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