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Illinois on Thursday joined a handful of states that have instituted indoor mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status, as the delta variant of the coronavirus drives a surge in infections.

The order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) joins similar measures enacted in recent weeks by officials in Louisiana, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Other states have not gone as far, some requiring masks in school settings or only for the unvaccinated.

Most cities and counties dropped mask mandates in May and June after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated people did not need to wear them. But the agency changed its guidance July 28, saying that the vaccinated should resume wearing face coverings in areas with high virus transmission.

As the nation grapples with the delta variant, covid-19 cases are being reported at levels similar to those seen in January, before vaccines became widely available. Hospitalization rates have hit a level not seen since Jan. 30.

However, even as many hospitals are under strain, deaths overall are fewer; the daily average of deaths at the end of January was 3,100, compared with about 1,100 as of Wednesday.

Here’s what to know

  • Activists, scientists and politicians say the Biden administration’s inconclusive report about the origins of a coronavirus demonstrates the need for further investigation.
  • Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it will charge unvaccinated employees $200 a month “to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
  • Protection against the coronavirus from two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines starts to fade within six months, highlighting the need for booster shots, researchers in Britain say.
  • More than 100 coronavirus infections have been linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an annual event that drew hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts to South Dakota this month.