Tomorrow, Illinois goes ‘mask-optional’ in most indoor public places. They’ll still be required in university classrooms and public transportation, and a few other spots, but otherwise masks are just ‘strongly encouraged’.
Sure I get it, mask mandates are unpopular, and it’s an election year. There’s a lot of pressure to let people just ‘be done with covid’, irrespective of the fact that covid is still killing about one 9-11 worth of Americans every single day. And, we are only beginning to understand ‘long covid.’ What we know so about it so far is… bad.
Our medical system, already not exactly a model of public interest, is in trouble. Not because we don’t have hospitals, but because the nurses and doctors that staff them have been worn and torn by the moral injury of fighting to help people who won’t help themselves.
Also bad are gaping holes in our social fabric, torn open by a hailstorm of divisive misinformation and interference from forces that benefit from social chaos in the West. The level of distrust on the street has tipped over into violence many times now, with no sign of letting up.
But there is some good news; the masks and lockdown and social distancing bought us valuable time. We’re in a much better position than we were when this all started:
- We have effective vaccines now, and aside from the tiny minority who can’t take them, everyone with a grain of sense in their heads already has.
- We understand the disease much better now; how it’s transmitted, how to limit spread when there are outbreaks, and more.
- We know what doesn’t work, and we have improved treatments and antiviral medications.
The announcement of Monday’s change was made a week ago, and it had been increasingly difficult to get people to mask up in the building. Today I saw a large group coming out of a classroom, not a mask in sight. I recognized a lot of faces in that group; the mask slackers who have been a problem ever since we went back to in-person instruction from lockdown.
Tomorrow? I guess we’ll see how it goes. And in the weeks to come. I will continue to wear a KN95.