Mask mandates rolling back in some states but not in Illinois

Haley Maser, News Editor

Mask mandates have been prevalent across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly a year after the original COVID-19 lockdowns, five states will join the current eleven that are not giving government guidelines over the use of masks.

State governors from Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota have announced the decision to end the mask mandates in their respective states. These decisions have been highly criticized despite eleven states-Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee-never implementing the guidelines originally.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ended face mask requirements for businesses on February 7, along with abolishing gathering limits and previously requiring schools to offer in-person learning. “Iowans know what to do. We’ve been telling them for a year what they need to do. And they’re doing it,” Reynolds stated in a press conference. 

Montana’s mandate was lifted shortly after on February 12, although some counties have decided to keep their mask requirements. On February 18, North Dakota’s mandate expired.

The governors of Mississippi and Texas ended their state mask mandates on March 3 and March 10, respectively, despite facing criticism from many officials. President Biden responded to these actions, claiming they were a result of “ neanderthal thinking.”

Multiple governors have come to the defense of their decisions, with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves responding, “Given how long ago Mr. Biden was elected to the US Congress, he certainly should know how Neanderthals think.” Reeves further explained, “The fact of the matter is, you cannot focus on data and science and making good decisions on those days when the numbers are going up and ignore the data and science on those days when the numbers are going down. And the fact of the matter is that we’ve seen significant drops.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, has also responded to the pull-back on masks, criticizing the relaxed state guidelines. Fauci claimed that it is “inexplicable why you would want to pull back now.” While multiple states have dropped their mandates, businesses and counties can uphold their own mask guidelines.

Despite backlash from the Biden administration and fellow governors, more states are expected to join the sixteen with no mask mandate in effect. Governor Kay Ivey recently announced Alabama’s mandate, which expires April 9, will be allowed to expire. While vaccine rollouts continue across the country, government officials are divided on the appropriate next steps for their citizens.


Update 3/25/21

Along with Alabama and Utah, Indiana is set to end their mask mandate in April. Governor Eric Holcomb announced Indiana’s mandate will be lifted April 6, however masks will still be recommended. “When I visit my favorite restaurants or conduct a public event I will continue to appropriately wear a mask,” stated Holcomb. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Despite this decision, masks will still be required in Indiana’s K-12 schools and government buildings. Visitors of COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites are also expected to continue wearing face coverings.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker has been critical of the neighboring state’s decision to end their mask mandate. “Illinois will lift its face covering requirement when the CDC recommends it,” Pritzker explained. “Masks have been one of our best ways to reduce risk in this pandemic, and we won’t be so foolish as to throw away our best weapon heading into the last lap of the fight.”

The decision on whether to lift or continue enforcing mask mandates has become a seemingly partisan issue. The majority of states moving forward without requiring face masks have Republican governors, unlike Illinois. 

The city of Chicago’s COVID-19 metrics are also on the rise, with a current average of 360 cases per day in comparison to 292 cases per day the previous week, according to NBC Chicago. “The biggest thing driving this is increases in cases in our younger adults,” stated Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. With spring break approaching for many schools, an end to Illinois’ mask mandate seems unlikely.