The new mandate goes into effect Friday.


Chicago is poised to bring back its indoor mask mandate on Friday, Aug. 20 as the number of newly reported coronavirus cases continues to rise in the third-largest city in the U.S.

Chicago is requiring everyone two and older to wear a face mask indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The mandate applies to bars, restaurants, gyms, and common areas of condo and apartment buildings as well as to key tourist sights including The Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, and the shops located along the Magnificent Mile.

"With the highly transmissible Delta variant causing case rates to increase, now is the time to re-institute this measure to prevent further spread and save lives," Chicago's public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said. Arwady specified that at restaurants and bars, masks could only be removed while "actively eating or drinking."

Chicago lifted its mask mandate for fully-vaccinated people in mid-May, but left compliance up to individuals, businesses, and the honor system. "With case counts now rising back to this level, the risk has increased for everyone, even those who are vaccinated," Arwady said.

Commuters, most most of whom wear face masks, travel on the L train system in the Loop on July 27, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

At this point, face masks won't be required at large outdoor events like the upcoming Chicago marathon. That event requires all runners to have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and is encouraging — but not requiring — face masks in Grant Park where the race starts and ends, local affiliate Fox 32 reports.

Chicago's daily average of new COVID-19 cases is now above 400 and is up 24% in the past week. The increase is not linked to Lollapalooza, which attracted an estimated 385,000 guests, according to city officials. "We see no connection between that event, or any of the other large events that we've had," Arwady said in a press conference Tuesday.

Nearly 60% of Chicagoans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 54% have been fully vaccinated, according to the city's official vaccination data.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 47 U.S. states and 50 countries on six continents. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.