Illinois and Chicago Implement CDC Guidance on Mask Use for Vaccinated Individuals

May 20, 2021

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that effective May 17, 2021, the State of Illinois is adopting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance regarding face coverings for fully vaccinated individuals. The next day, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced similar changes to Chicago’s face covering requirements.

As of May 18, 2021, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have aligned their face covering requirements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People for most businesses and public settings, as outlined in our prior LawFlash, CDC Updates Guidance to Permit Vaccinated Workers to Remove Masks in Most Indoor Settings.


Both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago now permit fully vaccinated individuals to not wear face masks in most public settings. Guidance at the state level remains limited, and we anticipate further details will be released in the coming days.


The governor’s office issued a press release on May 17, several days after the CDC announced its new guidance, declaring that Illinois would align its executive orders with the CDC guidance. Shortly thereafter, the governor signed Executive Order 2021-10.

Under the new executive order, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a face covering in most settings. The order defines “fully vaccinated” as an individual who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or two weeks past a single-dose vaccine. Face coverings remain required for all individuals on public transportation, in congregate facilities, and in healthcare settings, regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to use face coverings when they are in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.

Any business may permit employees and patrons to not wear face coverings if they are fully vaccinated, but must continue to offer face coverings to employees who are not fully vaccinated and are unable to maintain social distancing. Along with other continued safety requirements, businesses must continue to follow industry guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.


The Chicago Public Health Department (CPHD) amended its COVID-19 “Bridge Phase” Order 2020-09 on May 18 to no longer require individuals who are fully vaccinated to social distance or to wear face coverings in most public places. Like the CDC and the State of Illinois, Chicago’s order defines “fully vaccinated” as an individual who is two weeks past the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or two weeks past a single-dose vaccine. These individuals must continue to wear face coverings consistent with CDC guidance, including on public transportation, in congregate facilities, and in healthcare settings.

Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to practice social distancing, must wear face coverings in most public places, and are encouraged to limit in-person contact with others, especially if they are at high risk of severe illness.

Chicago businesses must seek to ensure that employees and customers who are not fully vaccinated practice social distancing and wear face coverings. Further, Chicago businesses must ensure that every employee who interacts with customers and is not fully vaccinated continues to wear a mask for the duration of their shift, subject to any medical exceptions. Among other continued requirements, businesses must request that employees conduct self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and, to the extent possible, adopt the city’s industry guidance.

In a related FAQ for the use of face coverings at Chicago businesses, the CDPH continues to “strongly advise” businesses to maintain face covering policies for all individuals in all indoor settings until the city moves to reopening Phase Five (removal of further COVID-19-related restrictions). Businesses that opt to allow fully vaccinated individuals not to wear face coverings are “strongly advised” to verify vaccination status by reviewing documentation of vaccination status, but are not required to maintain records of verification.


With the new guidance, employers in Illinois and Chicago should understand that they can permit fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing face coverings indoors. However, Chicago “strongly advises” that businesses continue their face covering policies, and the state executive order makes clear that “businesses are encouraged to prioritize the health and safety of their workers and customers, and may continue to require face coverings and social distancing, even for those who are fully vaccinated.”

Businesses considering removing face covering requirements for fully vaccinated individuals should develop plans for compliance with the new guidance and communicate in advance with all individuals who will enter the premises about any vaccination status requirements. For help ensuring compliance, businesses should look to previously issued guidance by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago for the administration of a “vaccine exemption,” which allows establishments to increase their capacity by not counting vaccinated individuals against capacity limits.

Finally, businesses should continue to monitor for updates to Illinois’s and Chicago’s reopening rules, as the guidance described has yet to be fully integrated into much of the relevant industry guidance.


We have developed many customizable resources to support employers’ efforts in safely returning to work. These include tracking of state and local orders on return to work requirements and essential/nonessential work; reopening plans, policy templates, and guidelines for key topics such as social distancing procedures, wellness screening, and workplace arrangements for high-risk employees; and webinar training on safety measures for return to work. View the full list of return to work resources and consult our workplace reopening checklist.


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If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Sari M. Alamuddin
Jonathan D. Lotsoff
Stephanie L. Sweitzer
Ami N. Wynne