Mask mandate, other COVID restrictions in Chicago possible if daily cases top 200, mayor warns

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CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will consider reinstating a mask mandate and other restrictions if the city starts to consistently record more than 200 new COVID-19 cases per day, she said.

Lightfoot made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times where she was asked about the pandemic and expressed alarm about rising totals among the unvaccinated, as she did during a news conference last week.

Asked what her threshold is for reinstating a mask mandate, Lightfoot said: “Well, look, if we get back into an area where we feel like we’re in a red zone, which we are working very hard to make sure that our daily case rate is below 200, if we start to see consistently going over that, we’re not only going to look at a mask mandate, but we’re going to look back at other tools that we’ve been compelled to use.

“I hope we don’t get there," Lightfoot added. “What we’re going to keep focusing on is pushing the vaccine. But my number one priority is to keep people safe.”

As of July 21, Chicago’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was nearly 150, a 71% increase from the previous week, when the figure was 86 cases. (Because of lags in reporting test results, more recent dates may not have complete data.)

Lightfoot faces a complicated balancing act on the pandemic. She has encouraged residents to get vaccinated and warned about possible restrictions if the city sees spikes. But she also has made a point of emphasizing her desire to keep the city as open as possible. At times, it has led to some mixed messaging.

As cases rose last October, for instance, she regularly warned about tighter restrictions being forthcoming — then criticized Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for again shutting down indoor dining.

Lightfoot is also facing some criticism from people who think Lollapalooza shouldn’t be allowed to happen this year as cases swell. Her administration is nevertheless carrying on with plans to host the 100,000 person a day festival.

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