Pritzker plans to lift mask mandate by Feb. 28 except in ‘sensitive locations’

Gov. JB Pritzker takes questions at a news conference at the University of Illinois Wednesday. Pritzker announced he plans to lift the state's indoor mask mandate in most locations by the end of the month. | Photo credit: Illinois.gov

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker will make an official announcement on the state’s plan for lifting its indoor mask mandate at 2 p.m. in Chicago, but in a morning news conference in Champaign Wednesday, he noted that he plans to lift the indoor mandate for some settings by Feb. 28.

That won’t be the lift date for schools and other “sensitive locations,” he said, declining to give a timeline as to when the mandate would be lifted in those places.

“Of course, we still have the sensitive locations of K-12 schools, where we have lots of people who are joined together in smaller spaces, thousands of people interacting in one location at a time. And so that’s something that will come weeks hence,” he said at an unrelated news conference at the University of Illinois.

Whether he has the authority to issue such mandates in schools, however, will be a question decided by state courts. The 4th District Court of Appeals is currently considering whether a lower court’s temporary restraining order on the governor’s school mandates pertaining to about 170 school districts will remain in effect.

“People are tired of wearing masks,” Pritzker said, but the people of Illinois have positioned themselves better than other midwestern states because they’ve worn them, he added.

The mandates have been aimed at protecting vulnerable Illinoisans, he said.

“We have lots of people who are vulnerable, who are seniors, who are immunocompromised, and lots of people who don’t know that they’ve got an underlying condition, that when they’ve been hit with COVID-19 it devastates them,” he said. “And unfortunately, we’ve seen many, many people die.”

The reason Pritzker is planning on lifting the indoor mask mandate is because hospitalizations for COVID-19, which pushed heights of 7,400 in mid-January, have fallen by nearly two-thirds, to 2,634 as of Tuesday night.

This story will be updated after the governor’s 2 p.m. news conference.

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