CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “Even though we are on a downhill with Covid, we are not completely out of it,” Awais Vaid, Champaign Urbana Public Health District, said.

That’s a warning from health care officials as Governor Pritzker announced the mask mandate will soon be lifted in many places. Today, Governor Pritzker announced the mask mandate will be lifted on February 28th. The surge in omicron cases came with the fastest rise in hospitalizations, but he says we’ve now seen the fastest decline.

Governor Pritzker said we’ve had a 66% drop in hospitalizations. He also said Illinois has one of the highest vaccination rates. That being said, health officials are still warning people to be careful.

“Just because the mandate has been lifted, does not mean we still don’t recommend people wearing the masks,” Vaid said.

That’s the message from Champaign-Urbana Public Health, after Governor Pritzker announced his plan to lift the indoor mask mandate for many places at the end of the month. Some bars in Champaign say this may not change business very much.

“I’d say probably 90-95% of the time customers are here, they’re seated, they’re drinking, eating, and they’re not wearing masks,” Jason Fowler, co-owner of Pour Bros Taproom in Champaign, said.

The co-owner of Pour Bros Taproom says he’s going to continue to follow whatever mandates are put in place.

“Through this whole thing we’ve had policy makers put guidelines in and we’ve tried our best to adhere to those guidelines and listen to what they’re saying,” Fowler said. “The same people now are giving a different direction now that we’re two years into this and we’ll continue doing that.”

While restaurants, bars and other indoor facilities can take their masks off in a few weeks, not everyone will be doing so.

“We’re under federal guidelines that we’ll stay with the mask mandate for the present time and continue to protect our patients, those that are probably more vulnerable than the general population,” Jared Rogers, President of OSF Heart of Mary, said.

Hospitals, like OSF Heart of Mary, will continue to have people wear masks. Other places that will keep a mask mandate include K-12 schools and long term care facilities.

“Healthcare facilities will probably be the last ones to end that mask mandate, which is rightfully so,” Rogers said.

Health officials say we’ve come so far with fighting the virus and are still in the pandemic, but hopefully, the worst is over.

“We have probably already seen the worst,” Vaid said. “It is behind us and going forward we will be in a much better position to address the small surges or even large surges without having to put in too many mitigations in place.”

Both OSF and CUPHD encourage people to wear masks if you feel uncomfortable. They said if you are not vaccinated and immuno-compromised, wearing masks could help save your life. They said while the vaccine may not prevent you from getting Covid, it can keep you from getting seriously ill.

Here’s a look at the trend regarding mask mandates we’ve seen throughout the pandemic.

  • April 23, 2020- first mask mandate
  • May 17, 2021- mask mandate lifted
  • August 30th, 2021- mask mandate reinstated
  • February 28th, 2022- mask mandate lifted