Cities Drop Mask and Vaccine Requirements for Indoor Dining After Latest CDC Guidelines Update

On Friday, the CDC said that more than 70 percent of the country is currently low risk under its current COVID-19 Community Levels.

A person holds their face mask in hand
Photo: Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images

On Monday, the state of Illinois — and the city of Chicago — lifted their face mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements for most indoor settings, which makes mask-wearing optional in restaurants and bars.

"Things seem to be pretty good," Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said during a news conference at Chicago's Navy Pier. "Hospitalizations are way down. Cases are way down, and we hope we can sustain that through the spring and the summer and frankly, forevermore." (However, masks are still required on public transportation, healthcare facilities, and in Chicago public schools.)

Illinois' announcement follows Friday's decision from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update its own guidance regarding mask-wearing. According to the agency, more than 70 percent of the country is now considered a "Low Risk" zone under its new COVID-19 Community Levels. Those who live in Low Risk zones are not required to wear face masks, while masks are recommended for individuals "at high risk for severe illness" in Medium Risk areas, and masks are still recommended for everyone in High Risk locations. (If that sounds complicated, you can check the current status for your county on the CDC's website.)

"None of us know what the future holds for us and for this virus," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday. "We need to be prepared and we need to be ready for whatever comes next. We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when our levels are low, and then have the ability to reach for them again if things get worse in the future."

On Sunday, New York City mayor Eric Adams announced that the city's vaccine mandate for indoor activities, including dining indoors, would end next week.

"New York City's numbers continue to go down day after day, so, as long as COVID indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also lift Key2NYC [vaccine] requirements," Adams said, according to Eater New York. "This will give business owners the time to adapt and will allow us to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York."

And in Los Angeles, county supervisor Janice Hahn issued an updated health order on Friday that gives businesses and venues — including restaurants — the ability to allow fully vaccinated customers (and vaccinated employees) to remove their masks, provided that their vaccination status is checked at the door. According to the order, unvaccinated customers "are required to provide a negative test, and continue wearing a well-fitting mask while indoors [...] except when actively eating or drinking."

Despite the new order, restaurants and other businesses are still allowed to ask their customers and staffers to continue to wear masks indoors — and some are taking that option. "We did have impressions of coming in today and everybody being unmasked, and it just being so open," Nicky Hill, the owner of Studio City restaurant Your Good Neighbor, told CBS Los Angeles. "But for the safety of ourselves and everyone else around us, we're going to keep doing what we're doing until those numbers continue to go down a little bit."

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