Lifted Mask Mandate in Illinois


A discarded mask on the asphalt. | Photo Credit: Schwarz on Unsplash

We have seen many different responses during the roughly two years of public response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent mask mandate was reissued on Aug. 30, 2021, with the intention of hopefully reducing COVID-19 deaths and infectivity rates throughout the US. This introduced a number of people voicing their thoughts on the mandate and its necessity, including some feeling their liberties were being intruded on, while others felt that the mandate would encourage better safety habits in the long term. We have seen ‘Karens’ kicked out of establishments and outright Twitter wars sparked over the morality behind forcing people to wear masks, asserting that if they do not want to they should not have to.

Then, effective Feb. 28, 2022, Illinois ended its statewide indoor mask mandate, making it so that people were not required by state regulations to wear their masks in indoor establishments. In fact, it was the last state in the Midwest to have done this, with the rest of the midwestern states having rushed towards lifting the mandate as soon as  Feb. 7, 2022. The average number of cases per 1 million people is 241,380 as of March 20, 2022. In Sangamon County, there have been 220 cases between March 7 and March 20. Overall, many people are grateful that the indoor mask mandate has been lifted, and relish in no longer being forced to wear a mask. Others are concerned that the lifted mask mandate is indicative of a greater issue with patience and consideration to public health.

The greatest issue here is the unfounded eagerness to move on from COVID-19 and the mark it has left behind. Many have little to no understanding of how pandemics are structured. Pandemics do not have a set end date but instead, come in waves and may spike or drop in the number of cases at certain times before being either mostly eradicated or becoming endemic. This was seen with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which was finally reduced to an endemic after a good deal of time and effort. It highlights a deeper issue relating to some members of the public’s impatience and preference for convenience on an unrealistic scale, as this lifted mandate remains unsupported by the CDC considering the trends of infectivity that COVID-19 has shown.

There really is no good reason to disregard the impact that COVID-19 has had on Illinois, this country, or the world. To lift the mandates we had in place is to disregard the roughly 970,000 deaths at the hand of COVID-19 in the US alone and the roughly 6.08 million deaths worldwide. The urge to move forward from this pandemic as though things can be “normal” again is unlikely to be effective in the long term and may only result in more death and higher infection rates. To smoothly transition to a more consistently low number of cases, we need to be consistently vigilant as a larger community, making sure everyone follows the bare minimum guidelines: wear a mask when indoors, socially distance six feet apart and wash hands frequently. That way, the number of cases should decrease until it is much more reasonable that the mask mandate be lifted.