Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a new executive order on May 17 that allows fully vaccinated residents to not wear masks inside and outdoors.

The updated rules for mask wearing are nearly identical to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance, which was released last week.

The CDC guidance permits fully vaccinated people to not wear masks or physically distance in any non-health care setting, “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

The CDC still recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks in health care settings, as well as on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation.

The new executive order requires residents to follow this recommendation regarding planes and public transportation. It also permits any entity to continue stricter masking requirements than are required by the state.

“[B]usinesses are encouraged to prioritize the health and safety of their workers and customers, and may continue to require face coverings and social distancing, even for those who are fully vaccinated,” the order states.

Pritzker said it will be up to private businesses to decide if they want to require patrons to provide proof of vaccinations.

“We are relying on people to do the right thing,” he said. “We are relying upon people to recognize that they don’t want to go infect other unvaccinated people and they don’t themselves want to get sick and so it’s important for people to protect themselves and I think there’s real motivation for people to go get that. We’re not going to stop people and, you know, start checking a vaccine passport as part of some state mandate.”

The mask mandate in Illinois took effect last May when Pritzker issued an executive order requiring anyone older than 2 years of age “to cover their nose and mouth with a face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.” 

The governor’s new order rolling back the mask mandate came as the state is reporting 37.7 percent of the population, or more than 4.8 million people, are fully vaccinated.

About 57 percent of Illinoisans between ages 16 and 64 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, as have 81.3 percent of those 65 years of age or older.

Local vax rates vary

At the local level, vaccinations rates continue to vary widely, with Riverside residents far more likely to have received one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than those living in Brookfield, or in particular, North Riverside.

As of the morning of May 18, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health’s online vaccine tracker, 77.7 of Riversiders have had at least one shot, and 61.3 percent have been completely vaccinated.

In Brookfield, 55.2 percent have had at least one shot and 42.5 percent had been completely vaccinated. Meanwhile, 36 percent of North Riverside residents have gotten the first dose of the vaccine and just 28.7 percent are fully vaccinated, far below the statewide rate.

North Riverside’s recent percent change – the number of new cases in the most recent two-week period compared to the prior two weeks — in COVID-19 cases is also up 100 percent according to Cook County, while it is level in Riverside and down 31 percent in Brookfield.

In the most recent week-long period ending on the morning of May 18, there were 23 new cases in Brookfield, the first uptick after three straight weeks of falling numbers there. Riverside saw nine new cases, an increase of just one over the prior week. North Riverside recorded eight new cases, a decrease from last week’s 13.

None of the villages reported any new fatal cases of COVID-19. Brookfield has experienced 13 deaths from the disease, while the Landmark has identified four North Riverside deaths and three Riverside deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.