As the number of hospitalizations for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continue to trend downward in Illinois, state officials are planning to end the indoor mask mandate in many settings on Feb. 28. However, Illinois REALTORS® General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Services Betsy Urbance urges members to take some caution as the date draws nearer. She cites several exceptions that merit attention, including the preferences of seller clients. Listen to the latest episode of the Illinois REALTORS® podcast.

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Full Transcript:

Jeremy Goeckner: Hello, and welcome to the IR weekly podcast, keeping you up to date with all of the latest news in the REALTOR® world. I’m Jeremy Goeckner.

Kelli Jessup: And I’m Kelli.

J.B. Pritzker: We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began. If these trends continue and we expect them to, then on Monday, Febr. 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the state of Illinois. And whether you’re wearing a mask or not, everyone deserves to protect themselves and their communities in whatever way they need to.

Kelli Jessup: That was Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker at a press conference on Feb. 9, announcing that the indoor mask mandate in Illinois is set to be lifted on Monday, Feb. 28. Obviously there are a lot of implications for REALTORS® and there’s of course, no better person to talk about it than the IR weekly returning champion, Betsy Urbance.

Jeremy Goeckner: Indeed. So, if you need reminding of course—that’s weird because she’s everywhere folks—but Betsy is of course the General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Services for your Illinois REALTORS® and she brings the knowledge folks. So Betsy, thank you so much for joining us once again today.

Betsy Urbance: Uh, thanks for having me. Wow! That was quite an introduction and I appreciate it. I think it’s maybe a little bit overblown, but you know I always appreciate a good intro. I’m going to have to come up with some walkup music there.

Jeremy Goeckner: Or like the final countdown or the old Chicago Bulls theme, maybe,

Betsy Urbance: Uh, happy to be here. Uh, yeah, we I’ll come up with something.

Jeremy Goeckner: There we go. Well, you know, obviously this is an announcement that Governor Pritzker made that a lot of people are interested in the details. Let’s just start as we always try to do at the big 30,000-foot view here. So what do these most recent comments from his press conference mean for masks in Illinois?

Betsy Urbance: As everybody knows—and I sound exasperated because I think we all are—it doesn’t matter what your Stripe, who you are, how old you are, how young you are, we’re just tired of masks. It’s that simple. We’re currently operating under a statewide mask mandate for indoors where you can’t maintain distances. And so that’s mostly everywhere. And then they also recommend masks outdoors, which probably we’re not doing a whole heck of a lot of that right now. But at least not down here; our foot of snow is melting, but we’re mostly indoors.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah, nobody can go outside.

Betsy Urbance: We’re mostly mask at this point. So, the 30,000-foot view is based on the intro here. I felt like Pritzker was sitting right here with us telling us the story, but if everything stays as it is or even gets better and declines a little bit more, we’re looking at a lifting of the state mandate on Monday, Feb. 28.

Jeremy Goeckner: That’s right. And I think there are some exceptions to that though.

Betsy Urbance: Right? There are some exceptions. Local municipalities villages, towns, tribes and territories can all have their own mandates that could be stricter. So, check where you live, your neighborhood association. I’m being a little bit funny there, but not very funny, but check where you are if you’re in a congregate setting. You know senior housing or something where people live closely together such as daycares, DCFS still has a mandate in place for daycares. Prisons I believe are still on the list.

Jeremy Goeckner: List. Yeah.

Betsy Urbance: There’s still a federal mandate that would cover your public transportation. So, if you’re going to the airport, have your mask handy. I have read something that they’re looking at maybe lifting some of these. I don’t want to say that in context with the planes. So, forget about that for the moment, but I do think there is a federal mandate that they’re looking at. Maybe mid-March, mid to the third week of March to drop that but stay tuned on the federal level.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Betsy Urbance: We might be, I don’t, I’m not an official at the FAA or anything, but  we might be looking at masks for a while.

Jeremy Goeckner: Airplanes and I believe the federal one, so that one would have to come from the Biden administration and the CDC.

Betsy Urbance: Federal.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Kelli Jessup: So, well, I think she answered our next question.

Kelli Jessup: So in 2021, the governor put forth a phase plan with numbered metrics for easing of COVID restrictions. Is there anything like that in place for this Feb. 18 lifting?

Betsy Urbance: Not that I could find. I looked OK. I think the word metrics was used and if the metrics continued to decline, but what those actual metrics are, I don’t know. Right. But you know what, dude I’m taking, I’m taking the word for it. I’ll just say personally, I’m all about wearing the mask because we need to, but the second we don’t have to you know.

Jeremy Goeckner: You’re right. There is a general fatigue factor about, I think so. And I don’t even know if it’s just the mask, but it’s just pandemic living, you know, like two years in and we’re continuing to go and it can play on anybody’s psyche, you know? Yeah. Like it’s one of those things. And I think you’re right though that was something that surprised me in the press conference because of course we all remember the phases from last year in Illinois and it had very specific numbers that it was there. If I’m remembering correctly, he said something about like hospitalizations, I think is his big metric that he’s looking at.

Betsy Urbance: Right. He consults with the Illinois Department of Public Health. And then Dr. Emily  Landon, he relies on her advice that it sounds like everything that I read and watch. So, I think there is consultation with the medical community, with the departments of public health, with CDC. So, I think we’ll just rely on that and see what the word is.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. And I mean, you did kind of mention it earlier, but it is very much, I think they left the door open that, you know, while they’re lifting the statewide mandate businesses, towns and municipalities, like they can still have their own mitigations.

Betsy Urbance: Sure. Absolutely. Businesses can do so private businesses can make their own mitigations as long as they continue to apply them consistently and fairly across the board.

Jeremy Goeckner: That’s a very key thing.

Betsy Urbance: Not for some or for some, but not for others, although I do. And this could get me in trouble, but I’m going to say it out loud. I think you can distinguish between whether a person has vaccination or not.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point.

Betsy Urbance: As long as it is applied consistently.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah, absolutely. Very, very key information there.

Betsy Urbance: Yeah. You’ve got to be super careful and make sure you apply it.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Betsy Urbance: Absolutely. Not consistently, but it is, you know, vaccine vaccinated or not is not a protected class.

Jeremy Goeckner: Right, right, right.

Betsy Urbance: So, depending on here I go.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yep. Yeah. I’m a lawyer.

Betsy Urbance: So, you got to have some disclaimers because someone could not be able to receive a vaccination in which case a reasonable accommodation may need to be made. Right. So there’s my qualification.

Jeremy Goeckner: Always ever. Yeah, not to lawyers. There’s always no, always that’s exactly.

Betsy Urbance: Say never. And it’s never, always exactly. Generally speaking.

Kelli Jessup: Okay. So, to wrap it up and get down to that question for our listeners, what does this exactly mean for our REALTOR® members and how they conducted their business.

Betsy Urbance: Right. For REALTOR® members and their businesses, check with your sponsoring broker to see if there are in-office policies, if y’all are in the office. That might mess up our life. Your office may have a policy as to whether or not you wear a mask. If you are indoors, listen to your seller, your owner, clients, your landlord clients, because if they have a rule or if they have a directive that they want people inside their homes and their buildings to wear masks, then that ought to be respected again. Don’t pick and choose who wears mask and who doesn’t subject to the reasonable accommodations we just talked about. Did I get all my disclaimers in?

Jeremy Goeckner: Think so.

Betsy Urbance: Um, that’s what it means, you know, and it’s still, you know, if you listen to Dr. Ezike, who is the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, you know, if people want to wear masks or choose to wear mask, that’s certainly allowable.

Betsy Urbance: There are folks that will want to protect their properties still, or they are immuno-compromised or have certain morbidities. So, they will say, if you’re going to come look at our house for sale, we want you to take these.

Jeremy Goeckner: That was actually something I was just wondering about when you were talking there. So, I mean, like, if you, I guess it is based on your client whose home you’re showing, like you got to get their permission and ask what they want to do. Right?

Betsy Urbance: Sure. Absolutely. Yeah, and still, you know, take care with distancing and be reasonable. And, you know the virtual options are still out there. And I think we will see in the industry a bit of that continuing, just because we’re in and going through.

Jeremy Goeckner: Oh, cross fingers, people.

Betsy Urbance: Hopefully we’re exhausted. I hope to not talk about this.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. And hopefully this is the last of these podcasts we have.

Jeremy Goeckner: Betsy, once again, just thank you so much for all the vital information for our members, just as always it’s incredibly weird to say fun, but I always have fun when you’re in here, but it is of course, an incredibly important thing for all of us to know exactly what we’re talking about. Nobody does that better than you. So thank you for being here.

Betsy Urbance: Thank you. You’re very kind.

Kelli Jessup: And that’s it for this week’s IR podcast. Thank you all for listening and as always, give us a rating and review on your podcast app, a choice. And if you want any more content, simply search for Illinois REALTORS® on your favorite social media app, we’ll see you next week.