NBC 5 Chicago reporter Mary Ann Ahern first reported on the governor's expected announcement. “@GovPritzker will announce Wednesday he's dropping #IndoorMaskMandate — except in schools (lawsuit appeal underway) — the effective date before March 1,” Ahern tweeted.
— Mary Ann Ahern (@MaryAnnAhernNBC) February 9, 2022
Pritzker joins other Democrat governors who are repealing their mask mandates ahead of the November midterm elections. Pennsylvania and Delaware announced the end of their mask mandates, with New York and Connecticut also weighing the option.
Last September, Pritzker would not say when the statewide mask mandate would end. “I couldn't give you a date on when we might be able to alleviate some mitigations,” Pritzker said amid rising coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations at the time.
On Tuesday, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin wrote a letter to Pritzker demanding clarity on the governor's public health mandates. “Your lack of a plan has forced people to give up hope that they can ever have a normal life in Illinois,” Durkin wrote. “Governor, it has been a long two years, and the people of this state deserve to know what you are doing.”
Pritzker seemingly responded to Durkin's letter at an event on Tuesday, where he told the crowd to “stay tuned” regarding the end of mask mandates. For Pritzker, hospitalizations are a key marker for lifting the mandates.
According to Chicago-based WGN-TV:
More than 2,600 Illinoisians are currently hospitalized with COVID hospitals, with a few hundred more than when the mask mandate was reinstated in late August. But there are few COVID patients in intensive care and ICU capacity is the highest it's been in nearly three months.
“Because it's such a central focus of communities and literally sometimes thousands of people are interacting in a school,” Pritzker said at the event. “We've got to be very careful about how we remove the mask mandates.”
Although Pritzker is expected to announce the end of mask mandates, he will reportedly keep the mask mandate in place for schools while litigation is pending.