Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker updated an executive order surrounding COVID guidelines in recent days, leading to new guidelines regarding masks, healthcare facilities, and more.
The changes to the order include new wording about who should wear a mask and when in the state and requirements for health care workers and those in long-term care facilities, but there are some caveats.
However, the guidelines from Illinois and the CDC are separate from mask mandates like those seen during the flurry of the pandemic so far, because they are recommendations, not requirements.
Here’s a look at the changes made:
New guidelines for masks
The governor made the first change to the order on Friday, moving the part about face masks, changing the wording to recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, follow masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Previously, the order stated that “every person who is not fully vaccinated and who is older than two years of age and can medically tolerate a face covering (mask or cloth face mask) should cover their nose and mouth with a face mask when in a public place and unable to maintain a social distance of six feet.”
The guidelines now say, “all individuals, including those fully vaccinated, are recommended to wear a face mask in accordance with CDC guidelines.”
Currently, the CDC recommends masking based on what it defines “community level” of the virus, with only residents on high alert being urged to wear face masks in public places.
At medium levels of alert, those at higher risk of contracting the virus, including the immunocompromised, are urged to “wear high-quality mask or respirator when you are indoors in public.”
Meanwhile, when it’s high, the CDC recommends everyone “wear a high-quality mask or respirator.”
Currently, Illinois has 16 districts on the list of the middle level of the community, but none are at a high level.
Health care and long-term care centers
In addition to Friday’s change, Pritzker on Monday updated masking and testing requirements for healthcare facilities and long-term care centers.
The changes, which took effect Monday, eliminate the weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated health care and long-term care facility workers. There was also a change for face masks in healthcare facilities.
“Face coverings are no longer required in all health care facilities, but are still recommended in health care facilities in areas of high community transmission, in accordance with CDC guidelines,” the governor’s office said.
The state-issued vaccine mandate for health care workers has also been removed, though the governor’s office noted that federal requirements remain in place.
“Although the vaccine mandate has been removed at the state level, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule requiring vaccination for workers in Medicare/Medicaid-certified facilities remains in effect,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “The amended state executive order does not affect that requirement and many Illinois healthcare facilities and LTC sites will continue to be mandated for the COVID-19 vaccine under this federal rule.”
The amended order also does not change the vaccination and testing requirements for civil servants in state assembly facilities.
“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our health care providers and residents, Illinois has done better to protect our people with vaccines, boosters and masks, which puts us in a position to continue to reduce health care needs in accordance with the CDC. Pritzker said in a statement. “Covid-19 is on its way to becoming endemic, like the flu, but it still poses a real threat to our immunocompromised and disabled communities. Here in Illinois, we look out for each other – that’s what defines us as Illinoisans. Let’s continue to live up to those ideals by masking up and getting tested when we have symptoms and getting booster shots against COVID-19 — as I recently did — so we can protect our neighbors.”
Other recent changes
The executive order changes mark the latest change in COVID restrictions since Pritzker.
Last month, the Pritzker administration announced an update to testing requirements for school and daycare workers, with unvaccinated workers in those settings no longer required to be tested twice a week.
The Illinois Department of Health said the change came “as our approach to the pandemic continues to evolve.”
The governor also announced over the summer that he was eliminating vaccine requirements for students and faculty members, among other changes.
“As we continue to learn how to live with COVID-19, it is important for the State of Illinois to adjust our policies to better align with federal guidelines,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra in a statement. “The Department continues to closely monitor COVID-19. And we are working with our partners in health care and long-term care to promote vaccination coverage, make treatments available, and protect our health care workforce. The updated Executive Director Red demonstrates our state’s ability to effectively combat COVID-19 with the many advanced tools at our disposal that can both prevent and treat this disease, I continue to encourage all of our residents, but especially those most at risk of severe outcomes, to take advantage of the vaccinations and treatments available to protect themselves and his family.”