A sign posted to social media last weekend by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White underscores the seriousness of wearing face coverings, as the pandemic surges back. --Supplied image
‘Don’t toss your mask’
Face coverings return as pandemic strikes back
By Tim Hadac
Capitol News Illinois
As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep across Chicago and the rest of the state, mask mandates began to return last week, causing what appeared to be a collective groan among some on the Southwest Side.
“I was just getting used to not wearing a mask, and it felt great,” said Julio Carranza, one of several Southwest Siders weighing in via local Facebook groups last weekend. “I guess the lesson is hey, don’t toss your mask. You never know if you’ll need it again.”
Ed Gomulka said he’s willing to mask up again, “but it irks me when I see the mayor allowing things like Lollaplooza, with up to what, as many as 100,000 unmasked people a day? All breathing on each other, bumping each other, and doubtless spreading COVID-19 among each other. It’s hypocrisy, and she lost all credibility with me, as did her Health Department doctor (Allison Arwady, M.D.) who actually tried to claim [Lollapalooza] was safe. That’s a lie. You watch, it will turn out to be a super-spreader event.”
Kathy Monarrez said she lost her aunt to COVID-19 in May 2020.
“No one likes the inconvenience of wearing a mask,” she said. “But we have to work together and be persistent until this [pandemic] is gone for good.
White leads way in re-masking at driver’s facilities
Masks are now required again at driver’s license facilities in Illinois, including the one in Bridgeview.
The new mandate kicked in Monday at the direction of Secretary of State Jesse White, who announced the decision last week.
In Springfield, Gov. JB Pritzker said he was “looking at all the possible mitigations” amid another surge of COVID-19 infections.
The secretary of state’s announcement came one day after the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance to recommend individuals in areas with “substantial risk” or greater for the spread of COVID-19 should wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status.
“Substantial” risk occurs when new cases are between 50 to 99 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, while “high” risk occurs when cases exceed that amount. A CDC county map, viewable at covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view, shows much of the state’s western half along the Missouri border is at high or substantial risk, as is most of southern Illinois.
Masks urged for schools
The CDC also recommended masks be worn by all individuals in K-12 schools, and IDPH announced it “fully aligns” with the federal guidance. The governor warned that districts disobeying guidance could face civil liability.
White’s new mask requirement will also apply to the Illinois State Capitol and all secretary of state offices. The announcement came as the state reported 2,082 new COVID-19 cases, the most since May 7, and the case positivity rate rose to 4 percent, the highest since April 19.
The guidance that all people in school buildings should wear face coverings comes just 18 days after the CDC released guidance saying masks were suggested only for those who had not been vaccinated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the CDC said the main reason for the change in guidance is the fact that the COVID-19 delta variant – which makes up “eight in 10” of the COVID-19 cases that have had been sequenced in laboratories – is less predictable and more transmissible than previous versions of the virus. It’s also due to the fact that fewer people than expected have chosen to become vaccinated nationwide.
“When we released our school guidance on July 9, we had less delta variant in this country, we had fewer cases in this country, and importantly, we were really hopeful that we would have more people vaccinated, especially in the demographic between 12 to 17 years old,” Walensky said according to an audio recording posted to the CDC website.
She said the guidance is aimed at protecting those who cannot be vaccinated, such as children 11 years of age and younger and those who are immuno-compromised.
While Pritzker said the state has “wanted school districts to make decisions for themselves throughout the last year to keep their districts safe,” school districts face the risk of being held liable in civil courts “if they don’t live up to the standard that is set by the CDC.”
The Illinois State Board of Education echoed those comments in a statement last Wednesday.
“Illinois fully adopted the CDC’s updated guidance for K-12 schools on July 27, which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” an ISBE spokesperson said in an email. “School boards that choose not to implement public health guidance are putting their students and staff at risk and should consult with their insurers as to potential liability.”
Other than that, ISBE’s most recent guidance, encouraging school boards to work with local health departments on mitigations, remains in place.
Pandemic of the unvaccinated
Walensky characterized current spread of COVID-19 as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” She said while the vast majority of disease transmission is happening between unvaccinated individuals, there are “rare occasions” in which vaccinated people have been spreading the virus to others, which necessitated the guidance for vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings.
But the vaccine is largely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death in those who receive it.
“We continue to estimate that the risk of a breakthrough infection with symptoms upon exposure to the delta variant is reduced by seven fold. The reduction is 20 fold for hospitalizations and deaths,” Walensky said.
Walensky also said a major concern as the virus continues to spread and mutate is that it eventually evolves into a “very transmissible virus that has the potential to evade our vaccine in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and death.”
While “we’re not there yet,” she said, that mutation could be as few as “two mutations away” from the current circulating variants.
As of now, 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois are occurring in unvaccinated individuals, Pritzker has said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Girls Soccer: De La Salle tops Bremen for program’s first regional title
By Steve Millar Correspondent De La Salle coach Carlos Nunez has seen his teams come up a bit short in the postseason repeatedly over the years. The Meteors had never won a regional championship in girls soccer. Until this year, that is. “I’ve been in every single one that we’ve lost in,” Nunez said. “We’ve…
Pro soccer report: Pugh tallies twice return in Red Stars’ win over Orlando
By Jeff Vorva Staff Writer Mallory Pugh gave a sample of what could be a big 2022 season when she scored four goals in the exhibition Challenge Cup series. But the Red Stars scoring threat missed the first two games of the NWSL season with an injury, and the team split decisions against Louisville and…
New ward map OKed
Reflects Madigan’s power By Tim Hadac The City Council this week approved a new ward map that, among other things, will see all of Clearing and most of Garfield Ridge shifted to the 13th Ward. Midway International Airport also would shift from the 23rd Ward to the 13th. Monday’s 43-7 vote means the issue will…
Area Sports Roundup: Sandburg takes 2nd at Bajenski tourney
By Jeff Vorva Staff writer The Sandburg baseball team has had more downs than ups this season. But the Eagles finished the regular season on a strong note with a run to second place at the Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Tournament, which wrapped up May 21 at Ozinga Field in Crestwood. To get to the…
Track Postseason Report: Sandburg boys 3200 relay records nation’s third-best time in 2022
By Jeff Vorva Staff Writer How good was the competition in the boys track Class 3A Lockport Sectional in the 3200 meter relay? Sandburg’s relay team of Brock Rice, Declan Tunney, Trent Anderson and Sean Marquardt ran a time of 7:42.42, which tied for the third-best time in the nation in 2022. And that was…
Summer weather means ice cream
By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon 3808 W. 57th Place • (773) 284-7394 And just like that, it’s summer in Chicago! At least for the week of May 9. That means ice cream for our family. We started with black walnut during that hot week. The old-fashioned flavors are the…
Seeking answer to loose dog dilemma
By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place • (773) 504-9327 Happy May 20, dear readers. Today is National Rescue Dog Day. We are to recognize all the benefits of rescuing a dog and allowing it to adopt you into their lovable life. There are certainly a lot of dogs in our neighborhood that need rescuing. Every…
Getting kids off their computers
By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 In case you were wondering, the gas company project over here on Francisco is moving along. I must say the contractors seem to be wasting no time and have been as respectful as possible. But alas, it is…
Cubs Charities hits a homer for Gage Park
By Joan Hadac Greater Southwest News-Herald Columnist at Large Greetings, Gage Parkers! I’m pleased to be pinch hitting again, as the search continues for the next columnist for this neighborhood. It’s fun for me to report on Gage Park, the neighborhood where I lived for the first 26 years of my life. There’s always something…
‘You knew this would happen’
Neighbors angry, but not surprised by shooting By Tim Hadac What a number of Southwest Siders living along the Pulaski corridor have been warning about appears to have occurred. A 22-year-old man was shot in the abdomen and buttocks as he stood with a group of people in a parking lot at 7050…
Longtime lawmaker reflects on time in General Assembly, calls it ‘honor of lifetime’
By GRACE KINNICUTT Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – House Majority Leader Greg Harris, the number two Democrat in the Illinois House of Representatives, never imagined landing the role of state representative – or that he would leave office feeling that he has been successful at it. The first openly LGTBQ leader in Illinois History,…
11th contempt citation filed against DCFS director
By BETH HUNDSDORFER Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – On Thursday afternoon, a Cook County judge found Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith in contempt of court for the 11th time for violating court orders to move children to proper placements. The 11-year-old girl at the center of the case has…
Criminal case against senior staff at state-run hospital dismissed
By BETH HUNDSDORFER Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The official misconduct case against a Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center senior staff member was dismissed on Thursday. Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Tripp dropped the charges, related to a cover-up of abuse at the state-run facility, against Choate’s quality assurance manager Gary Goins. The…
ANALYSIS: Fuel retailers sue over ‘compelled speech’ at the gas pump
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] “As of July 1, 2022, the State of Illinois has suspended the inflation adjustment to the motor fuel tax through December 31, 2022. The price on this pump should reflect the suspension of the tax increase.” Those two sentences may be coming to a gas pump near you…
CAPITOL RECAP: Survey: Illinois undercounted in 2020 census
By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD – The Census Bureau released new survey data Thursday, May 19, suggesting the population of Illinois may have been undercounted by nearly 2 percent in the 2020 headcount. That was one of the findings of the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, or PES, something the bureau does after each decennial census…
Census Bureau: Illinois may have been undercounted in 2020 census
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The Census Bureau released new survey data Thursday suggesting the population of Illinois may have been undercounted by nearly 2 percent in the 2020 headcount. That was one of the findings of the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, or PES, something the bureau does after each decennial…
Illinois rejoins federal Title X family planning program
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Illinois has resumed participation in the federal Title X family planning program after refusing to take part for the past three years in protest over a Trump administration policy regarding abortion services. Gov. JB Pritzker announced this week that the state has been awarded $5.4 million…
Pritzker signs bill requiring serialization of unfinished ‘ghost guns’
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFILED – Owners of firearms that do not have serial numbers – referred to as ghost guns – will have 180 days to take them to a federal firearm dealer to have them serialized or they will risk being charged with a misdemeanor. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the…
What’s in the SAFE-T Act? A look at the 2021 criminal justice reform and how it has evolved
By GRACE KINNICUTT Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Amid a campaign season in which every constitutional office and seat in the Illinois General Assembly will be up for vote, rising crime and a landmark criminal justice reform passed in 2021 have become dominant topics for Republicans trying to loosen Democrats’ hold on state government.…
Cost of Statehouse renovation higher than estimated but within state’s budget
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The cost of renovating the north wing of the Illinois Statehouse will be more expensive than officials initially estimated. Only one bid came in for the project, which is about to get underway. CORE Construction Services of Illinois Inc. priced the job at $243.5 million, well…