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Under the latest extension of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, residents will be required to wear masks in stores and other places where social distancing is not possible.

Beginning May 1, Illinois residents will be required to wear a mask or face covering in public places and in situations where they are unable to keep their distance from others. The new mandate is part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extension of the stay-at-home order.

Many suburbs already implemented the mask requirement before the governor announced the new policy. The order now applies to all residents and businesses throughout the state.

Is there a certain type of mask I should wear?

What qualifies as a mask is broad. The N95 respirators and surgical masks should be reserved for emergency workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other face coverings for the general public can include bandanas, scarfs or T-shirts. There are resources online from the CDC and others with demonstrations on how old shirts can be made into a mask without sewing. The key requirement is that it covers both the nose and mouth. The CDC notes:

Masks are intended to stop you from spreading the virus to others, not to stop you from being exposed.
They should fit snugly but be comfortable on the face. Ear loops and multiple layers of fabric are recommended.
Masks should not be touched after they are on. They can be removed by ear loops, then you should wash your hands immediately and launder the mask before using again.

When do I have to wear a mask?

Masks will be required in nearly every public setting and all individuals over the age of 2 will have to wear them, provided they are not medically prohibited. The executive order states they are needed “when in a public place where they can’t maintain a six-foot social distance.” This means people are required to wear them when entering any business or indoor public setting. Masks are not needed outside in parks, as long social distancing of six feet or more is maintained.

How is this going to be enforced?

The requirement will not be enforced in a heavy-handed fashion. Pritzker said enforcement will be done at the local level, so it is up to the businesses to ensure their customers are properly protected before entering. Law enforcement does not need to arrest or fine someone who isn’t wearing a mask but should be reminding the community of the new requirements.

Why do we need to wear masks?

The point of wearing a mask is to protect others. The idea is that if one person is an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, wearing a mask will limit their ability to transmit the virus to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly agrees with Illinois’ order to require masks in public.

Do people in other states have to wear masks?

Illinois is far from being the first state to require the use of a mask in public. Many stores had already required shoppers to wear a mask upon entering. Anyone still looking to travel will also likely find they must wear a mask before boarding a plane.

How long will masks be required?

Wearing masks in public places will likely become common practice for the foreseeable future, not just in Illinois but in most of the world. Experts believe it will be necessary so life can go on with some semblance of normality until a vaccine or cure is developed. A vaccine could be at least a year away, according to the most optimistic predictions.

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