Covid Live Updates: South Korea Approves Shots for Children 5 to 11 as Cases Soar

Covid Live Updates: South Korea Approves Shots for Children 5 to 11 as Cases Soar

Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Chicago will end its mask and vaccine mandates for some public places such as restaurants starting on Monday after a recent plunge in cases of the Omicron variant, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday. The move aligns with Illinois’s plan to end a statewide indoor mask mandate that same day.

The announcement by Mayor Lori Lightfoot does not apply to some spaces — notably health care settings and public transit, where masks will still be required.

“It’s important for us to recognize this moment for what it is: a huge step forward in our effort to overcome Covid-19,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “We would not have been in a position even a few weeks ago to be making this kind of announcement today.”

Democratic-led states and cities announced similar moves this month as Omicron cases declined after a devastating wave that began in December. Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts will also lift some mask mandates starting Monday. Washington, D.C., will end a mask mandate for schools that day.

The United States is seeing a daily average of 89,000 cases, a 65 percent decrease over two weeks, while daily average hospitalizations have also declined 43 percent to about 66,000 during that time, according to a New York Times database. Despite the optimistic data trends, the average daily death toll from the virus still exceeds 2,000.

Chicago officials said the decision to ease the mandates was made as key metrics — including daily cases, test positivity and hospitalizations — were all in a significant reversal from the surge. The city’s number of cases and hospitalizations have been halved over the past two weeks.

“This doesn’t mean Covid is gone,” Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, said in a statement. “It simply means transmission levels are lower than they have been during surges. I still encourage people to take precautions and definitely get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Sam Toia, the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said he welcomed the decision by Ms. Lightfoot to lift the mandates, which were put in place in January. “It’s been a tough January and February for restaurant operators,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

It was unclear what Ms. Lightfoot’s decision meant for Chicago Public Schools. Debates over pandemic mandates at schools have been among the most acrimonious, as parents opposed to masking have showed up in force to school board meetings.

The district and the Chicago Teachers Union did not immediately respond to messages left by a reporter, and the mayor said she expected an announcement from the district “in a couple days.”

For her part, Ms. Lightfoot, who caught the coronavirus during the Omicron surge, said that she would continue to wear a mask in public places. “That’s my personal choice,” she said.

She said she would be particularly careful in restaurants, now that there was no longer a requirement to show proof of vaccination to enter. “I’ll be wearing a mask,” she said.

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