By James L. Curtis, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen
Seyfarth Synopsis: Labelling the Delta-variant surge as the “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated,” on August 26, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Prtizker announced that Illinois residents must wear masks indoors, and that school and health care staff must be vaccinated.
Cook County and the City of Chicago both had mask mandates in place for “indoor public settings.” On August 26, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-20, providing that that:
All individuals in Illinois who are age two or over and able to medically tolerate a face covering (a mask or cloth face covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in an indoor public place. Illinoisans should also consider wearing a mask in a crowded outdoor settings and for activities that involve close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. Face coverings may be removed temporarily while actively eating or drinking (including in bars and restaurants), and may be removed by workers at workplaces where they can consistently maintain six feet of distance (such as when workers are in their office or cubicle space).
The requirement is effective Monday August 30, 2021. The governor also announced a COVID vaccine mandate for health care, schools, higher education, and state-owned or operated congregate settings.
As we have blogged with regard to CDC and OSHA guidance, the new Illinois EO does not define an indoor “public” place, which appears to give employers in non-public facing environments continued discretion in enforcing mask requirements for vaccinated employees. The Governor’s press release of August 26, 2021 explains the mask mandate to cover all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals entering workplaces, all adults and children two years old and older, and “all indoor settings.” Accordingly, the Governor’s office appears to be taking an expansive view of an indoor public place.
The Governor noted that due to the Delta variant, that the number of new cases, including children, is of increasing concern. He explained that Illinois hospitals were facing rising levels of COVID hospitalization, with admissions made up almost entirely (98%) of the unvaccinated. He reiterated a push for vaccination, and requires it of those employed in healthcare and schools.
For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.