Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and based on Chicago’s current local COVID-19 data, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is requiring that everyone age two or older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public indoor settings, effective Friday, August 20, 2021. Masking remains optional in outdoor settings, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower, though masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded outdoor settings.
On July 27, 2021, the CDC issued updated guidance that everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) in areas with “substantial and high transmission,” wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The CDC defined four levels of community transmission: low, moderate, substantial, and high. Based on Chicago’s population, the city is in the CDC’s “high” category of local transmission when there are more than 400 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed per day. These are the same levels Chicago has used to determine COVID-19 community risk for more than a year.
On Monday, August 16, 2021, Chicago surpassed 400 new COVID-19 cases per day, moving into the CDC’s “high” category of local transmission. Chicago data is updated every weekday at chi.gov/coviddash.
In alignment with the CDC’s guidance, the City is now mandating that businesses require masks for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in all public indoor settings. The new public health order does not include capacity limits at public places.
This requirement does not apply to outdoor settings – masks remain optional outdoors, where COVID-19 transmission is much less likely. As a reminder, outdoor settings include sidewalk cafes, outdoor patios, rooms with retractable roofs, outdoor tents with at least 50% of the sides open and indoor spaces that are within eight feet of walls that are at least 50% open.
While masking is now required in indoor settings, the requirement allows masks to be removed in certain cases, such as when patrons are actively eating or drinking; personal services that require the removal of face coverings (e.g., facial, shave); and office working spaces in which individual workstations are spaced at least six feet apart. Masks also remain mandatory on public transportation, in healthcare settings, schools, and correctional and congregate settings.
No changes are being made to the requirements for social distancing. Businesses are still generally encouraged to support social distancing to the extent possible for customers, especially in indoor settings; in addition businesses must post signage indicating that masks are mandated for all customers in indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.
Businesses seeking more information and guidance should visit Chicago.gov/reopening. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) will be holding webinars on Thursday, August 19th at 10:00 a.m. and Friday, August 20th at 1:00 p.m. to provide an overview of the mask mandate. To register for a webinar, please visit chicago.gov/businesseducation.
The vaccines authorized in the U.S. are working as expected and have been essential in the fight against COVID-19. They are effectively preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Since January 2021, 97% of Chicago’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have been in people who were not fully vaccinated. The CDC estimates that nationally, people who are unvaccinated are three to four times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, and 25 times more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than people who are fully vaccinated. The great majority of COVID-19 cases in Chicago are in unvaccinated individuals.
The best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant continues to be vaccination, including getting both doses if you get a two-dose vaccine. CDPH strongly urges anyone age 12 and older who isn’t yet vaccinated to get vaccinated right away. Chicago residents should call 312-746-4835 or visit chi.gov/covidvax for help getting a vaccine.
Thank you in advance for your continued efforts to keep your customers and employees safe and for following this new masking requirement. Read the City’s press release here.