Mask sign at downtown apartment building.

The director of Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department says he is encouraged by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to lift most of Illinois’ indoor mask mandate on Feb. 28.

However, the governor’s act does not cover Evanston, which has it’s own health agency for issues such as this.

Health Director Ike Ogbo tells Evanston Now that the city is continuing to review COVID-19 numbers, “and if we continue to experience declines in these leading COVID metrics, a determination will be made on how to proceed in lifting or adjusting the current mandates at that time.”

Ogbo says Evanston’s mitigation measures have saved lives, and “we are pleased with the progress as how the city is trending.”

The mandate review would also likely cover Evanston’s requirement that indoor dining customers also provide proof-of-COVID-vaccination before being allowed to eat inside.

No specific date has been given for a decision.

Many in the hospitality industry are eagerly awaiting the lifting of mask mandates.

Gina Speckman, executive director of Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, tells Evanston Now, “We have always wanted to follow the science. If masks were required based on COVID-19 metrics, there needed to be metrics that warranted removal of the mandate.”

Speckman says even when the mask mandate is gone, some individual businesses may still require them, particularly for meetings. But that would be a business decision, not a state or local rule.

Speckman also says a number of Cook County hotels and restaurants, including those in Evanston, are concerned about the proof-of-vaccination mandate, as surrounding counties do not have such a requirement.

She says, “Our businesses are losing some business to surrounding counties that do not have a vaccine mandate. I believe this mandate will be revisited soon.

As for Evanston, Speckman notes that “to date, it has followed Cook County, which follows the City of Chicago in terms of mandates. So all eyes are on Chicago.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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