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The Chicago mask and proof-of-vaccination mandates are set to end next week except for public school students, teachers, and employees. Beginning on Monday, February 28, restaurants, bars, and gyms will no longer be required to expect patrons to comply with the mandates, announced Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner.
Lightfoot explained the reasoning behind keeping the mask mandates in place for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was to avoid the chance of another conflict with the union, according to Chicago Sun-Times.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and the mayor agreed to adhere to the agreement made in January that ended the strike last month that closed schools for five days. “The safety agreement with the teachers union mandates masks in schools until August.”
This is important since there is a significant difference in vaccination rates between school communities. Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is pleased the district plans to honor their agreement “despite a right-wing legal attack to remove public health protections,” writes the union in a statement.
It seems the consensus is the schools do not want to undo the “great progress in recent weeks against the virus,” and agree it would not be wise to move too quickly, the CPS district wrote in a statement.
We look forward to the day when we can be mask-optional at CPS, but we still need to get more students vaccinated across our District, and we still need to work with our public health and labor partners on the best way to preserve a safe in-person learning environment for all.
The announcement Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker made last week includes continued masking requirements for CPS, public transit, and congregant living environments, including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, prisons, and more.
Masking requirements still face opposition in the state as they have already been removed in more than 150 districts in the state after a judge blocked Gov. Pritzker’s regulations.
Chicago’s mayor urges others to respect personal decisions in this situation. Many people will continue to wear masks for any number of reasons, even if they are vaccinated or as more directives and advisories wane. Lightfoot also noted:
Some venues may continue to impose their own mitigation efforts to keep their clients and customers safe. That is their right. And we must respect [their decision].
She admits that she decided to continue wearing a mask, especially in restaurants, since there is no way of knowing another customer’s vaccination status. After catching a mild case of COVID-19, Lightfoot will not put herself at risk. “That’s my personal choice,” she added, according to Chicago Sun-Times.
Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia expressed her pleasure over Lightfoot’s decision to lift the mask and proof-of-vaccination mandates, which is in keeping with the same changes Pritzker ordered, including the end date of February 28. Stopping the current regulations that have required showing their vaccination card and photo identification since January 3 is a step toward “going back to a sense of normalcy,” Toia added.
As the pandemic is in its third year, people are suffering from “COVID fatigue;” they are more than ready to see these changes happen. People are tired of being isolated and scared. Moreover, they are tired of being careful, explains Kaye Hermanson, UC Davis Health psychologist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Returning to pre-pandemic normal is not only subjective but a challenge.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago lifting mask and vaccine mandates on Feb. 28 but will keep masks in schools for now; by Fran Speilman and Nader Issa
Block Club Chicago: Chicago’s Mask, Vaccine Card Mandates Will End Feb. 28; by Kelly Bauer
UC Davis Health: ‘COVID fatigue’ is hitting hard. Fighting it is hard, too, says UC Davis Health psychologist
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