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  • Writer's pictureWGON

Chicago to Become Latest City to Lift Mask and Vaccine Mandates

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday that the city will lift its indoor mask mandates for public settings and lift mandates for restaurants, gyms and bars to require proof of COVID vaccination for entry starting next Monday.

The city is lifting the requirements at the same time as the state mask mandate is set to be lifted Monday, and Lightfoot and other officials said improvements in several key metrics used by health officials motivated the decision, according to WTTW-TV.

After Chicago's requirements are lifted, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle will be the remaining large U.S. cities with proof of vaccination requirements for certain business and entertainment venues, Newsweek reported Tuesday. Several cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and Minneapolis, have lifted similar mandates.

However, Chicago will be short by several days from the two-week period reflecting the lower metrics Lightfoot previously said would be required for the city to lift its mandates, WTTW reported. Chicago Public Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last week that it would be possible for the city to shorten that window to avoid confusion once the state rules are lifted.

Three metrics that have lowered recently in Chicago include the positivity rate of tests among all tests taken, the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients and the number of ICU beds occupied by COVID patients, while the total number of confirmed cases remains at a level of "substantial transmission," according to WTTW. Masks will still be required in schools and other close-contact places like long-term care facilities, as well as in accordance with the federal requirements of masks on public transportation and in hospitals.

The city signed an agreement with its teachers union earlier this year that requires masks in schools through August, although there is currently at least one lawsuit over the mandate, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

"It's important for us to recognize this moment for what it is: a huge step forward in our effort to overcome COVID-19," Lightfoot said at a Tuesday news conference. "We would not have been in a position—even a few weeks ago—to be making this kind of announcement today."

"Many residents may continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons—even if they are vaccinated or as more mandates and advisories fade.…That is their right. And we must respect it," Lightfoot said. "Folks, be kind and conscious of your fellow neighbors and any decisions that they make for themselves to feel comfortable and protected. Our sense of togetherness as Chicagoans is what has made us who we are and what has gotten us through these last two years."

She also said that as someone who previously contracted COVID and developed a mild case, she will still continue to wear a mask in most public settings, including restaurants, now that other patrons do not have to be vaccinated.

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