Chicago, IL

A return to normalcy this summer? What the CDC's new mask guidelines mean for Chicago outdoor gatherings

Jennifer Geer

The CDC's recently updated guidelines say vaccinated Americans don't need to wear a mask outdoors in certain situations. Will Chicagoans need a vaccine passport to attend events?

Should you wear a mask outside? Until recently, the answer has been yes. Unless you are alone or with members of your household, the CDC recommended wearing a mask in public.

In Illinois, the mask mandate means if you cannot maintain a distance of six feet from others, masks are required whether you are indoors or out of doors, fully vaccinated or not. Meaning at parks, beaches, farmer's markets, biking paths, or anywhere outdoors, everyone should be wearing a mask per the state guidelines.

But the CDC released new guidelines this week that state fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear their masks outside unless they are in large crowds, meaning vaccinated people can gather outdoors maskless.

The rules get a little complicated whether you are vaccinated or not. The CDC has issued a graphic to help people understand.

To sum it up, if you are fully vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask in public when you are indoors. Outside, you only need to wear a mask in large crowds. However, unvaccinated people need to continue to wear a mask outdoors and indoors in public places.
CDC graphic explaining risks of outdoor activities for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people(CDC)

What does this mean for Illinois?

We expect to hear an announcement soon from Governor J.B. Pritzker regarding a revised mask mandate for the state of Illinois that follows guidance from the CDC. The Illinois Department of Health announced in a statement, "At this time, Illinois plans to remain in concert with CDC masking guidelines."

Masks are still required indoors

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady reminded us that masks are still required indoors. "Masks remain required indoors. Just to be very, very clear about this difference, we are very, very strongly still requiring." Arwady continued, "The risk remains higher indoors... But if you are out in a restaurant and you can't know whether everybody around you has been vaccinated - we're working to get restaurant staff vaccinated, etc., the expectation remains indoors that you would be wearing that mask putting it on when servers are near you, etc. But fully vaccinated, you know, out of doors we're mostly thinking about when people are out and about."

Chicago may require a vaccine pass to attend summer events

The new mask guidelines might mean a relaxing of outdoor events for Chicago this summer. But it might only be for vaccinated individuals. Dr. Arwady has suggested that the city is considering requiring proof of full vaccination to participate in Chicago summer events.

Neither the city of Chicago nor the state of Illinois has plans to make the vaccine required for individuals. But, it may be a requirement to get into certain events. Dr. Awady said, "We are certainly thinking a lot about people who are fully vaccinated, and opportunities for them to do certain things."

As early as next month, we may get an announcement of a "vax pass." It would be a smartphone application that event organizers would use to screen individuals before letting them enter a crowded venue.

Why you need a Covid-19 vaccine, and where to get one

The key to a normal summer is getting as many people vaccinated as possible. The more vaccinated people, the better chance we have of achieving herd immunity and ending the pandemic. Unfortunately, the longer Covid is running rampant through the community, the more chance the virus has at mutations that the current vaccines may not be able to stop.

Getting a vaccine in Illinois has become easier than ever. You may not even need an appointment. Many sites are now open to walk-ins. If you need to know where to go, you can get started at the Illinois Vaccine locator here.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL

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