Illinois Unidos is a statewide network of Latino-serving community-based agencies, Latino medical and health professionals, academics, civic leaders, and public officials committed to an equitable response, and recovery process from COVID19. We are concerned with Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to lift the indoor mask mandate for our state on February 28th. Yesterday’s announcement was premature and will have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color.
This action will continue to put essential workers, many of whom are Black, Latino, and immigrants in harm’s way. Essential workers, temporary and low-wage workers continue to be at risk and continue to work in settings where social distancing is impossible or often ignored, and proper ventilation may be lacking.
Physicians, nurses, and public health allies who are part of Illinois Unidos’ efforts are taken aback by this decision. According to Dr. Marina Del Rios, MD, co-chair of Illinois Unidos’ Health and Policy Committee, “While it is true that the rolling 7-day average case rates per 100,000 are down relative to a month ago, case rates are still higher than they were December 2020 – March 2021, and are as high as they were in October when masks mandates were reintroduced. We caution that case numbers have decreased thanks to layered mitigation efforts.”
Alejandra L. Ibañez, executive director of Illinois Unidos noted, “The state’s Latino and Black communities are still grappling with the pandemic. We still have high rates of Covid-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations; and it is simply too premature to end mask mandates. Eliminating restrictions should occur when not just some communities, but all communities are safe.“
Illinois Unidos find some comfort in the continued indoor mask mandate in schools, nursing homes, health care facilities, and public transportation. Illinois Unidos urges Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health to consider the impact of this decision in communities of color and those most vulnerable.