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Daily Journal
     September 1, 2021      #91-244 KDJ

Let's mask up to avoid another shutdown 

By Ron Jackson

Here we go again. Just as I was getting comfortable and confident going into places without a mask, Gov. JB Pritzker has issued a return to mandated masking, effective Monday, Aug. 30.

For the past few months, it has been really nice, seeming almost normal without having to remind myself to grab a mask before walking a few hundred feet from my car to a business. Seeing signs on doors using terms like “Masks Suggested” or “Masks Requested” was much more welcoming than “Masks Required.” Now it is back to the memory assisting hanging of a mask from the rearview mirror to save time, some under-the-breath expletives and hopefully lives.

Contrary to a sizeable opinion, the governor issued his indoor mask order because he says, “Masks work. Period.” The governor says the state is “running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds.” The indoor mask mandate applies to everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

In addition to his public mask mandate, Pritzker issued a separate order for teachers, health care workers and higher education students to get a vaccine or submit to weekly COVID testing. The vaccine will be required for all P-12 teachers and staff. All post-high school personnel and students and hospital, nursing home, urgent care facilities and physicians’ office personnel must also be vaccinated by Sept. 5 or be subjected to weekly COVID testing.

The governor’s latest mandate was prompted by the state’s increase in the positivity rate in all 11 of the state’s COVID regions. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the positivity rate has been increasing measurably for the past three consecutive weeks. Last week, the positivity rates increased statewide from 4.2% to 10.4%. IDPH also reported that the state’s weekly vaccine doses have also increased from 170,000 two weeks ago to 234,949 last week.

To be expected, there is an indirect correlation between hospital bed availability and the positivity rate. According to IDPH, 36% of the state’s counties are at “warning levels” for intensive care bed availability. The warning level status means that fewer than 20% of ICU beds are available in those counties.

The numbers seem to support the governor’s action. What else could or should we expect the governor to do? There was considerable angst and protest about children being required to wear masks during the school days. Now everyone has to wear a mask indoors. Do we buckle under and follow the directive out of caution or do we revolt out of principle?

Honestly, I don’t know what mitigation mandate number we are under. However, I support taking this step now than to suffer through another debilitating period we experienced under the first mitigation. I prefer wearing a mask over shutting down our economy again.

The timing couldn’t be better. For some, maybe. Illinois is about to end the federal enhanced unemployment benefits program. The weekly $300 federal dollars that were added to the state’s unemployment benefits will end Friday, Sept. 4, just before Labor Day. That only applies to the federal portion. Illinois’ regular unemployment program will not be affected. If that $1,200 per month loss results in the hopeful motivation for people to seek work, it would be counterproductive if Pritzker were to shut down the state again.

I am OK with a little inconvenience for the sake of potential majority safety. It is no different than the inconvenience of a police roadside checkpoint to ensure seatbelt compliance or being profiled because I may fit the description of someone who may be suspected of possessing illegal weapons. For the good of a lot, we all can sacrifice a bit.

Mask up or shut down, I think the choice is easy. If you don’t like it, you can make another choice on Nov. 8, 2022.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com.

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