Are We Ready to Enter a New Era?
Updated: Feb 28, 2022
By: Amy Boehm
As of today, February 23rd, 2022, it has been 713 days since COVID shut down the world. 713 days of wearing masks, being socially distanced, e-learning, and, naturally, the emotional turmoil that comes with these changing aspects of everyday life. However, the battle has yet to conclude.
As of February 15th, 2022, there have been a total of 3,004,664 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois alone, with 32,072 confirmed deaths and 3,985 possible deaths due to the virus (https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/data.html). These numbers do not include the percentage of the population that had the virus but did not get tested, or did not report their positive results (for example if it was an at-home test). This brings Illinois to a test positivity percentage of 3.8%, on average. Additionally, for the entirety of the United States, there is a high level of community transmission, as reported by the CDC Covid Data Tracker (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_community) with a 7-day percent positivity of 10.03%.
What does this mean for schools? Recently, a circuit judge from Sangamon County, located in southern Illinois, ruled that the requirement of masks and quarantining policies of schools is beyond the governor’s authority and deprives students of the due process of law. Roughly translated, this means masks have become optional in schools statewide. Governor J.B. Pritzker immediately asked for an appeal of this ruling, hoping to reinstate the mask mandate for schools all over the state. He fears the return to remote learning because of the lack of sufficient protection for students and staff. On February 18th, the appeal from the governor was dismissed, effectively keeping masks optional at schools like Wheaton North for the foreseeable future. There are some school districts exempt from this ruling, like Chicago Public Schools, who were not named directly in the court case and therefore are still able to require masks and vaccinations/COVID tests. Despite the mask/no mask ruling, many schools across Illinois have stated that they will still be strongly encouraging their students and staff to be masked when on school grounds.
Other updates in the world of mask mandates for Illinois have come up recently as well. Again, Governor Pritzker has been at the forefront of this battle, saying that, should our biggest COVID surge continue to lessen, he will lift the mask mandate for most public indoor places at the end of February. Under this new rule, face coverings would still be required in schools, health care settings, and public transportation. Illinois Doctor of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said, “COVID is not gone. And it will not be gone on February 28, so we’re going to have to continue to find ways to live with the virus.”
As this new world we have been thrown into continues to define and redefine itself, laws and mandates will continue to change. It is important, however, to remember to respect the personal decisions of others and be mindful of new developments for Illinois and CUSD 200.