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Delaware, New Jersey governors lift mask mandates

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Gov. JB Pritzker said he was “hopeful” Illinois could soon drop statewide pandemic protocols after COVID-19 dropped by half. His colleagues in Delaware, New Jersey and formerly in Iowa dropped their mask mandates.

While governors in Iowa, Delaware and New Jersey announce an end to statewide COVID-19 mandates, Illinois remains among the minority still operating under pandemic emergency rules.

Gov. JB Pritzker said on Feb. 4 his administration would lift Illinois’ mask mandate “as soon as possible.” In the nationwide COVID-19 metrics, new cases fell 51% in the previous week.

Pritzker would not offer target dates for lifting its pandemic protocols like other governors have done. He said he was “hopeful” about relaxing state mask requirements indoors.

New Jersey ended indoor and school mask requirements on February 7. Delaware will end its indoor mask requirement on February 11 and school mask requirements on March 31. Iowa ends its emergency mandates on February 15.

Pritzker’s “hopeful” statement came on the same day that his mask mandate for 170 Illinois schools was temporarily invalidated after it was declared unconstitutional.

“I am very pleased that we were able to weather this omicron COVID storm that came through,” Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago. “I believe that we should remove masks as soon as possible. I constantly listen to and encourage doctors and scientists. … I’m very confident that we can make some announcements on that.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported an average of 8,627 new cases daily on Feb. 4, a 51% drop in cases from the last week of January. It is the smallest weekly caseload recorded in Illinois since omicron was created.

COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and ICU bed utilization have also declined statewide, with limited exceptions in southern Illinois. Even Chicago is considering lifting the city’s vaccination and masking requirements as cases tumble across the city.

Pritzker said his public health team will be “looking very carefully at how to keep people safe and healthy while we potentially lower mitigation levels.”

Despite previous hints from the governor that Illinois citizens could soon see an end to his COVID-19 mandates, Pritzker has repeatedly avoided offering target dates or specific thresholds below which he would consider lifting.

At the end of Pritzker’s 24th state disaster declaration, issued Feb. 4, Illinois will have been under the pandemic emergency rule for 757 consecutive days.

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