COD Masks, Vaccines and Testing All Hinge on Governor

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his intention to lift the Illinois mask mandate on Feb. 28, and COD will be following suit.


Graphic from Zainab Imam

Bee Bishop, Staff Writer

With the COVID-19 spike caused by the Omicron variant waning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he anticipates lifting the Illinois mask mandate at the end of the month. COD Vice President Jim Bente said COD will follow suit once the official decree is made. 

On Feb. 9, Pritzker praised the state’s response to the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 spikes. 

“Our approach has saved lives and kept our economy open and growing,” Pritzker said. “Vaccines work. Masks work.”

Pritzker additionally discussed the steady decline in COVID-19 statistics, stating that because of the decline he is optimistic of lifting the mask mandate.

“If these trends continue, and we expect them to, then on Monday, Feb. 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the state of Illinois,” he said. 

Some may ask what is the correct metric for making these decisions, however Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease doctor at University of Chicago Medicine, said during the press conference no such method exists.

“Each wave of this pandemic has had different characteristics, different behaviors, and no single metric has been able to reliably predict the outcomes and trajectory of each of the variants,” she said. 

During a personal interview, Bente said COD will continue to require masks until an official decree from the governor’s office lifts the mandate.

“In effort to protect students and faculty and staff, the college’s protocol for wearing a mask while indoors remains in effect,” he said. “Really right now, the governor is speculating that they’re going to lift the mask mandate.”

While the governor is optimistic that the mandate will be lifted, it does not mean masks are gone or the pandemic is over. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois’ top doctor, offered a few words of advice during the press conference. 

“While masks will no longer be required in most indoor locations beginning Feb. 28, I want to be clear that they are still highly recommended,” she said. “There are places where masks are still required. The federal government still requires it in transportation: airplanes, trains, buses and subways. And masks are still required inside federal buildings and areas of substantial or high community transmission.”

While the state government may not require masks, businesses may still ask people to wear masks indoors or individuals may feel more comfortable to continue wearing masks. Pritzker made it clear that is something to be respected.

“Having stricter mitigations than the state requirements is something that must be adhered to,” he said. “The lifting of the state mask requirement should not invite people not wearing masks to disway those who choose to wear masks.”

Landon agreed saying, “The mandate ending does not mean that you’re entitled to be mask free everywhere, anytime. Having choice also means having responsibility.”

Bente said the lifting of the mandate will look like the summer semester of 2021.

“I think what the governor said was ‘mask optional.’ So it’ll be predicated on individual preferences by students, faculty and staff,” he said. 

Additionally, individuals will still be required to submit vaccination cards or adhere to weekly testing. 

“We’re doing the vaccination and testing under executive order 2021-20,” Bente said. “So as long as the governor maintains the vaccination and testing, we will maintain that.”

Ezike continues to encourage not only masks but vaccines as well.

“[The vaccine] is our very best tool for preventing severe illness, and we will continue to encourage people to stay up to date on their vaccines,” she said. 

COD will continue to follow its current trajectory in following the governor’s office as Feb. 28 approaches.

“Whatever that decree is,” Bente said. “The college will follow.”