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Illinois COVID-19 mask mandate ending for most indoor spaces

March 1, 2022 GMT
FILE - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to media at the Thompson Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as he mandates COVID-19 vaccines for teachers, college students, health care workers, and imposes indoor mask mandate for all. Gov. Pritzker said that the statewide school mask mandate will be lifted Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in response the the new guidance, although Chicago Public Schools officials said they will continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures.” (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to media at the Thompson Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as he mandates COVID-19 vaccines for teachers, college students, health care workers, and imposes indoor mask mandate for all. Gov. Pritzker said that the statewide school mask mandate will be lifted Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in response the the new guidance, although Chicago Public Schools officials said they will continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures.” (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to media at the Thompson Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as he mandates COVID-19 vaccines for teachers, college students, health care workers, and imposes indoor mask mandate for all. Gov. Pritzker said that the statewide school mask mandate will be lifted Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in response the the new guidance, although Chicago Public Schools officials said they will continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures.” (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to media at the Thompson Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as he mandates COVID-19 vaccines for teachers, college students, health care workers, and imposes indoor mask mandate for all. Gov. Pritzker said that the statewide school mask mandate will be lifted Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in response the the new guidance, although Chicago Public Schools officials said they will continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures.” (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to media at the Thompson Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as he mandates COVID-19 vaccines for teachers, college students, health care workers, and imposes indoor mask mandate for all. Gov. Pritzker said that the statewide school mask mandate will be lifted Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in response the the new guidance, although Chicago Public Schools officials said they will continue to require masks “to maintain health and safety measures.” (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The need for face coverings in most indoor spaces in Illinois was ending Monday as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier announced that he would lift the mandate for masks to slow the spread of the deadly virus as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations fall. The Democratic governor intended that the requirement remain in effect for schools, where students and staff are more closely congregated, but other government action has invalidated that order.

On Monday, Pritzker added child care centers to the list of public places where the mask requirement has been lifted. And also on Monday, the United Center in Chicago announced that starting in March, that those attending Blackhawks and Bulls games and concerts won’t have to wear masks any more. But, the Chicago Tribune reported that fans will still be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to be admitted into the building.

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However, some schools, including the nation’s third-largest district in Chicago, will continue requiring face coverings.

In the rest of Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week that the city would also lift its mask mandate Monday, along with a requirement that people show proof of vaccination at places such as restaurants.

The Illinois Supreme Court last week denied an appeal by Pritzker of lower court rulings that reversed the governor’s mask requirement for schools.

Masks will remain the rule on the state House floor, where they’ve been challenged by Republicans. The Legislature has planned an abbreviated spring session that’s scheduled to end in early April. Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told members he doesn’t want to risk an outbreak which would derail work or worse, jeopardize family members of lawmakers who are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated.

The requirement has led to the regular removal from the floor of up to eight Republicans for refusing to comply, including Rep. Blaine Wilhour, of Beecher City, who filed a lawsuit against Welch.

State Senate officials are evaluating options.