CHICAGO (CBS) -- Just days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased their guidance regarding masks, Gov. JB Pritzker is updating the statewide mask mandate in Illinois, to lift the requirement for a face covering in most cases for people who have been fully vaccinated.
"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. 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," Pritzker said in a statement Monday afternoon.
People in Illinois have been required to wear masks in public settings since last April, but the changes announced by Pritzker's office on Monday lift the masking requirement for people who have been fully vaccinated -- except when they are in planes, buses, trains, or other forms of public transportation; in congregate settings like jails and homeless shelters; in healthcare settings; or in schools or day care facilities.
Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated, and is over age two and can medically tolerate a face covering, will still be required to wear a mask in public, including indoors and outdoors whenever they can't stay at least six feet away from others.
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In addition, people who have not yet been fully vaccinated are still urged to avoid public gatherings, and limit close contact with other people.
The governor's updated executive order continues to encourage people who haven't been fully vaccinated, and who are at high risk of severe illness from the virus due to their age or a pre-existing health condition, to continue to stay at home as much as possible, and minimize contact with others to avoid the spread of the virus.
Because the risk of spreading the virus is lower outdoors, the governor's updated guidance encourages people who aren't fully vaccinated to conduct their activities outside whenever possible.
Under the governor's new rules, all businesses -- including retailers, manufacturers, and office buildings -- must ensure employees who aren't fully vaccinated practice social distancing and wear masks whenever they can't stay at least six feet away from others. Business also must make sure employees have enough room to practice social distancing in the workplace, including locker rooms and lunch rooms. They also must make sure all visitors who aren't fully vaccinated practice social distancing, and wear masks when they can't do so.
Employers also must provide masks for workers who aren't fully vaccinated.
The changes to the state's mask mandate came just hours after Pritzker said he would be updating his executive order soon. He acknowledged the new rules will rely on people "doing the right thing."
"We are relying upon people to recognize that they don't want to go infect other unvaccinated people and they don't themselves want to get sick," he said.
Pritzker said he would continue to wear a mask in large groups.
"I'm going to take it, you know, gently and carefully going forward," Pritzker said.
Earlier Monday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she plans to continue wearing a mask in public, because of unanswered questions about the latest federal guidance.
"I think the announcement last week regarding masks has left people a bit confused, and so what I'm saying is I think we need, from the CDC, some clarification on what that means," Lightfoot said Monday afternoon. "I know that I've been fully vaccinated, as has my wife and others, but we don't know in any given setting who has been fully vaccinated, and I will just say for myself, I will continue to wear my mask, certainly indoors, but also in certain outdoor spaces, when I don't know the people that I'm around, whether they've been fully vaccinated or not."
The mayor can order stricter masking rules than what Pritzker has issued for the state, but it was not immediately clear whether Lightfoot would follow the state's lead on easing face covering requirements for people who are fully vaccinated. The mayor's office and Chicago Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before the governor's changes to the state mask mandate were announced, Lightfoot said she believes the CDC needs to clear up confusion about the new federal guidance, given that people have no way of knowing whether strangers around them in public have been vaccinated.
"It's great to say you don't need to wear masks if you're fully vaccinated, but that raises a whole set of questions that I think perhaps they didn't clearly anticipate. So I think some clarification is needed, and I expect that to be coming soon," she said. "I don't want to have people lulled into a false sense of security that, simply because some folks are vaccinated, that it's all good, and we don't need to do anything more. We have a lot more that we can do."
Illinois entered the so-called "Bridge Phase" of its reopening plan on Friday, allowing for increased capacity limits for most businesses; including retailers, museums, zoos, and spectator events. The Bridge Phase is the last step before a full reopening. Barring another resurgence in virus cases or hospitalizations, the state could fully reopen without capacity limits on June 11.
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