New wave of mask debate as schools set to reopen

I walked into a meeting last week, grabbed a chair and settled in.

At some point, I noticed I couldn't quite recognize the person sitting next to me because she was wearing a mask. I looked around and came to the realization that everyone was wearing a mask. I was the only maskhole! Fortunately, I had one in my purse and quickly put it on.

I was more prepared when I went to get my haircut a couple of days later. There, it turned out, masks were not in wide use.

These moments of confusion might soon be a thing of the past, if masks once again become the norm for everyone everywhere. Gov. JB Pritzker last week announced a new mask mandate for all schools, public and private, preschool through high school, and for long-term care facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control says we, too, should be wearing masks indoors if live in an area of "substantial" or "high" COVID-19 transmission. We do.

And so the debate continues. Less than a day after Pritzker's press conference,

Hinsdale's representative in the Illinois House, Republican Deanne Mazzochi, issued a statement opposing the mandate. Her criticism is pointed. She says the governor is not following science and trying to exercise "unilateral executive powers" refused to him by the legislature.

But the argument isn't just among the politicians. Hinsdale has a set of dueling petitions, one supporting a mask requirement in schools and the other advocating for optional masks.

I for one am relieved kids will be wearing masks in school. After switching off more than once between hybrid and remote school last fall, we decided to have Ainsley go fully remote for the rest of the year. I was not looking forward to the possibility of quarantines interrupting her in-person learning this year.

Like most people, I'd prefer not to wear a mask. But with cases on the rise, the opposition just doesn't make sense to me. I can't understand why some see wearing a mask as an abdication of personal freedom or complain that they don't want "government" telling them what to do.

The government tells us what to do all the time. Driving is a prime example. We must obtain a license and purchase car insurance. We must wear a seatbelt, travel at prescribed speeds and drive on the right side of the road.

I keep thinking about Ainsley's friend from preschool, who caught pneumonia a couple of years ago and still has not fully recovered. His mom was terribly worried when she enrolled him for a two-week daytime camp this summer, even though much of it took place outside and all the kids were required to wear masks.

What will she do this fall if parents are able to "opt out" of the mask mandate at her son's school? Is she supposed to home school him for an additional year because another parent wants to send his or her child to school without a mask?

I, too, think we should listen to "the science." But over the past 17 months I think we've seen that scientists simply don't know everything there is to know about this virus. So erring on the side of caution doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

I wish we could all stop framing this in terms of our own desires and beliefs and really consider how our decisions - our supposedly "personal" choices - affect others.

Maybe then we could all stop arguing.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean