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Evanston Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo has issued an order requiring all persons working in or patronizing “essential businesses and operations,” as defined in the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order, to wear cloth face coverings. This order is effective beginning at 8 a.m. on Thursday, April 23.

Does this Order mean I have to wear a face covering when I go to the store or get takeout from a restaurant? Will public-facing employees also be required to wear face coverings?

Yes and yes.

What is a face covering, anyway?

It is any type of cloth that covers your nose and mouth. You can make your own or use a non-medical grade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief.

CDC and IDPH recommend reserving medical grade masks and N-95 respirators, as we need those for our health care workers, medical providers, and emergency responders. (You can donate personal protective equipment here.)

What if I’m in a store and a customer or employee is not wearing a face covering? What should I do?

You have several options. First, as a precaution, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, as recommended by the CDC. Then, if you feel compelled, you could either (1) inform a store manager or employee, (2) gently and respectfully let the patron know of the Order, or (3) call 311 and make the City aware. The City and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce are also working closely with local businesses to communicate with customers to comply with this order.

What if wearing a face covering poses a health, safety, and/or security issue to me that is greater than the benefits at large to the community?

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance. Please get a note from your medical provider if your medical condition requires you to not wear a face covering.

Do I have to wear a face covering when I’m engaged in a permissible outdoor physical activity, as defined in the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order, such as walking, running, or biking?

As long as you are practicing strict social distancing (6+ feet apart) with people outside your household, you do not need to wear a face covering while engaging in a permissible outdoor physical activity.

Speaking of outdoor activities, why have you not closed down our lakefront, parks, and bike lanes? There are too many people out there, particularly on nice days.

Now we are off topic, but since you asked, as a City we are working hard to strike the right balance between insisting that people stay home and recognizing that all of us need to get outside from time to time for our own physical and mental health. Because our lakefront does not have nearly the number of sports fields and courts found in Chicago, we have opted to educate, monitor, and enforce physical distancing in our parks, rather than shut down the lakefront parks. All in all, we are observing general compliance. Our actions will continue to include a strong public information campaign, heightened patrols by EPD and NU Police, monitoring the relevant COVID-19 local data, and encouraging residents to call 311 if they see blatant violations of people not complying with physical distancing. Lastly, I continue to encourage residents to find a path less traveled when they encounter too many people.

Why is Evanston late to the game in requiring face coverings? I thought we were a leader and a progressive City.

This is a public health emergency and, as such, our Health and Human Services Director’s opinion carries the most weight. Our Health and Human Services Director, City Manager, and I subscribe to the Governor’s fact-based, data-driven decision making model. Given that neither CDC nor the State (nor Chicago for that matter) have mandated face coverings, we have been reluctant to do so, believing that they have far greater resources, expertise, and information to make such a decision. Nonetheless, several of our neighboring communities (Glenview, Skokie, Wilmette, and Highland Park) have recently issued face covering orders, and because we live in the same geographic area and share many of the same essential businesses and amenities, our Health and Human Services Director has concluded that it would be best for Evanston to issue a similar order.

That’s fine, but this feels like one more infringement on my civil liberties.

I do hear you. All I ask is that we remember that our actions to stay home, to only leave for essential activities, and to wear a face covering are important to slow the spread of COVID-19, relieve the pressure on our health care systems, and over time, allow us to restart our economy while we try to bide time for scientists to develop anti-viral medications and a vaccine. We are all sacrificing for the collective good.

What if I choose not to wear a face covering?

You may be fined. Also, a business owner or operator may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear a face covering as required by this Order.

Are you really naive enough to believe that a face covering order will get everyone to wear one?