Several last minute developments occurred Friday night with respect to masking in schools:
- CDC issued updated guidance, including no longer recommending universal masking in schools
- The Illinois Supreme Court vacated Judge Grischow’s TRO barring the enforcement of Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders and remanded the case back down to the circuit court
- Governor Pritzker stated that effective today, February 28, 2022, he was removing his statewide school mask mandate
- The CDC stated it was no longer enforcing its Order regarding masks on school buses
A summary of each of the updates is provided below. It is important to note that these updates only impact mask mandates and as of now, no other COVID-19 mitigation measures (such as quarantines, vaccination, etc). ISBE and IDPH have already stated they are working on updated guidance and the CDC is going to issue an amended order with respect to masks on private and public school buses. The Governor’s Executive Orders on other COVID-19 mitigation measures expire on March 5, 2022. We expect more developments and clarification over the next week or two and will update you accordingly.
CDC Masking Guidance
On Friday, February 25, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on the use of face masks to protect people and communities from the spread of COVID-19. The new guidance creates a three-tiered system of COVID-19 Community Levels. The first tier, Low, recommends that a person wear a mask if it is their personal preference (and accounting for their personal level of risk). The second tier, Medium, recommends that those persons who are immunocompromised or a high risk for developing severe illness to wear masks. The second tier also recommends that if a person lives with or has a social interaction with someone who is at a high risk of severe illness, the person should test before meeting and wear a mask when indoors with the person at a high risk. The third tier, High, recommends wearing a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or an individual’s risk. Under these new guidelines, nearly 70% of United States lives in counties that are considered to be at low or medium risk.
State of Illinois
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office released the following statement “because the CDC has recommended that masks are needed only in areas of high transmission, the State of Illinois will move forward to remove our school mask mandate, effective Monday. We will recommend that all school districts follow CDC guidance and will update our existing guidance in the coming days.” At the time of this writing, we are still awaiting the State’s update of existing guidance.
CDC Order re Masks on School Buses
Additionally in response to the new guidance, the CDC has posted on its website that:
Effective February 25, 2022, CDC is exercising its enforcement discretion to not require that people wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs. CDC is making this change to align with updated guidance that no longer recommends universal indoor mask wearing in K-12 and early education settings in areas with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level.
CDC plans to amend its Mask Order as soon as practicable to not require that people wear masks while outdoors on conveyances or while outdoors on the premises of transportation hubs, and to not require that people wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems.
At the writing of this post, the amended Mask Order has yet to be published.
To see the risk of your county and read more about the CDC’s new guidance, go HERE.