Travel COVID guidelines could either be getting an update or be extended in the coming days.

Already, mandates have been lifting in most settings across Illinois and Chicago, including recently announced plans for mask-optional learning in Chicago Public Schools, but federal guidance for public transportation remains in place.

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin: COVID Risk Breakdown by State

In a drastic shift from months past, masks currently aren’t recommended throughout most of the country.

In fact, more than 90% of Americans live in areas deemed medium or low risk for COVID-19, and in those areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said people can safely go without masks.

The CDC last month outlined a new set of metrics to determine a community’s risk level, with less of a focus on positive test results and more attention on what’s happening at hospitals.

Read more here.

Federal Airline Mask Mandate Set to End March 18, But Will it Be Extended?

Following surges in COVID-19 cases, the Transportation Security Administration twice extended the face mask requirement for airports, planes, buses and rail systems.

As case numbers have dwindled and other COVID metrics have improved in recent months, the TSA is set to lift the requirement on March 18.

While the mandate could be extended once again, it’s unclear if that will happen.

The requirement has remained in place even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a shift in COVID-19 guidance late last month, saying most Americans are safe without a mask in indoor settings.

Read more here.

Illinois County-by-County COVID Risk Levels and Mask Guidance, According to the CDC

A vast majority of Illinois’ counties are listed as having low risk of COVID-19 transmission, but not all are in the same boat as several are still considered high risk.

According to an update map released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 counties were said to be low risk. An additional 34 counties were placed in the medium category. In those areas, masks aren’t required, however, individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID are advised to talk with their doctor about if they should wear a mask and take other precautions.

Read more here.

CTU Responds to Announcement CPS Will Lift Mask Mandate Next Week

The Chicago Teachers Union said Chicago Public Schools’ decision to lift its mask mandate for students and staff, switching to a mask-optional policy, is a “clear violation” of the union’s agreement with the district and has promised legal action.

“Our union will immediately be filing an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against the district in response, and requesting that CPS bargain over this decision — a decision that impacts nearly 400,000 students, educators and school staffers in Chicago,” the union said in a release Monday.

Read more here.

CPS to Update COVID Policy, Go Mask-Optional Beginning Next Week

With face-covering requirements lifted across Illinois, Chicago Public Schools officials say classrooms will soon switch to a mask-optional model for both students and staff.

Starting next week, CPS said its mask mandate will be lifted for all students and staff, giving parents, students and employees a choice, though the district said it will continue to encourage their use.

CPS was one of the first to require universal masking in schools, and we would not be moving to a mask- optional model unless the data and our public health experts indicated that it is safe for our school communities,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “We will support our staff and students as we enter this new phase in the pandemic and continue to move forward together.” 

CPS’ mask mandate was part of an agreement reached between city officials and the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year.

Read more here.

How to Order Your Free COVID Tests From the Government by Mail as New Round Available

Americans can order more free COVID tests from the government by mail, even those who already received their first shipment, starting this week.

In his State of the Union remarks last week, President Joe Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government.

Here’s what we know so far.

Can You Get COVID Twice? Here’s What Infectious Disease Doctors Say

While COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers have improved in recent weeks, some doctors caution the pandemic still isn’t over yet.

Thousands of new infections are still occurring in Illinois on a weekly basis, with more than 10,000 reported in the past week, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And even those who’ve had COVID-19 and recovered aren’t exempt.

Read more here.

Can Dogs Get COVID? What to Know About the Virus and Pets

Can dogs, cats and other pets contract COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s possible for animals to get COVID from people, but there’s a low chance of animals spreading the virus to humans.

Most animals infected with the coronavirus had close contact with people who had COVID, such as pet owners and caretakers, the CDC said online.

Reports of animals infected with COVID have been documented worldwide, specifically in companion animals, zoo animals, mink on mink farms and wild white-tailed deer in the U.S.

Read more here.

Will You Need Another Booster Shot of the COVID Vaccine? Chicago’s Top Doc Weighs In

Some Americans are already being encouraged to receive a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine, but could such a recommendation be coming for the general population?

With COVID metrics on the decline and restrictions loosening across the country, some are wondering if added protection will be necessary.

Already, immunocompromised individuals are being encouraged to receive a fourth dose under new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month.

Read more here.

COVID Symptoms in Children: What to Look For as Many Await Vaccines

With some children still unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and masks coming off at several Illinois schools, many parents are wondering what symptoms they should watch for in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children experience similar symptoms to adults, and in many cases suffer from milder illness.

“While children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, kids are less likely to become severely ill,” the Mayo Clinic reports. “Up to 50% of children and adolescents might have COVID-19 with no symptoms. However, some children with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.”

Here’s what to look for.

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