Editorial: Caution and compassion needed as COVID-19 restrictions ease
Reemerging into the world as Illinois fully reopens Friday feels wonderful, yet oddly surreal.
Frankly, it's also a bit scary.
If you followed pandemic precautions closely, seeing unmasked workers behind your deli counter is unsettling. So is the ever-shifting masked vs. unmasked ratio at stores, restaurants, offices and public events.
Masks have been our must-have accessory these past several months.
Going without one can make you feel incredibly free -- or frighteningly vulnerable.
Fears of getting COVID-19 even for the vaccinated linger, as do concerns about variants. Neither worry, unfortunately, is unfounded.
Plus, it's naive to think that every person who skipped the vaccine will follow the honor system and mask up in public, particularly those who ignored the science and fought face coverings from the start.
It will take time to adapt to society's latest version of the "new normal." And as we do, caution, concern and compassion should guide our way.
If friends and family are still holding back from activities you now deem safe, respect their choices even if you don't understand them. If you disagree over shared events, talk it out -- see if there is somewhere to meet in the middle.
If you are not ready to give up your mask, don't -- but understand that other vaccinated people will. If you are ready to venture out without a mask, don't question or hassle those who feel differently.
In this time of shifting rules, understand that while many restrictions have eased, others remain.
When you board a plane, you will still be required to wear a mask. Ditto for your doctor's visit and other places.
We don't know when -- or if -- those policies should change.
Parks and restaurant patios are filling up, but the pandemic is in no way over. COVID-19 remains a threat even as death rates drop and vaccination rates climb.
As of Tuesday, 42% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated; 51.6% of the population has received at least one shot.
Stated another way, though, almost half the country has not even started the vaccine process -- and many people have no plans to do so.
Plus, much of the world lags far behind the U.S. in vaccination rates.
Last week, employees at the Kane County Judicial Center held a mask-tossing ceremony in St. Charles to celebrate that vaccinated people no longer have to wear face coverings there. But bailiff Robin Simmons spoke for many of us when she called the day "bittersweet."
"I am not 100% sure that we are ready for this yet," she said.
She is not alone.