Editorial: If we're not careful, we may end up extending our COVID fatigue

  • Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder walks past one of the images used by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to unveil a new mask awareness campaign Monday.

    Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder walks past one of the images used by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to unveil a new mask awareness campaign Monday. Associated Press Photo

 
Updated 8/5/2020 2:35 PM

COVID fatigue. It's a phrase we keep hearing more and more as the crisis we once thought might last a few weeks winds into its fifth month with no sure end in sight.

We've had to make a lot of sacrifices in those five months because of the novel coronavirus, and it's no surprise the strain is wearing on us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But recent spikes in COVID-19 infection numbers as Illinois has steadily relaxed health restrictions add frustration to foreboding, considering the potential for all the successes we've achieved to be undone if we find ourselves having to return to strict lockdown conditions we thought we'd escaped when we moved into Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan.

That's why the new drive to reinforce the need for masks and social distancing is so important. And why it's a message that ought to resonate particularly in the Chicago suburbs.

Months ago, many people considered the coronavirus to be primarily a threat to urban centers where the population is highly concentrated.

To whatever extent that was ever true, it now is becoming less so by the day. On a national scale, the change can be seen as Southern, Western and some Midwestern states that felt safe reopening quickly are leading the way in a national resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

In Illinois specifically, the evidence can be seen in the numbers our Jake Griffin reports today.

Whereas the area outside the Chicago region accounted for less than 10% of COVID-19 cases in early May, the downstate area represents nearly 40% of cases in the latest numbers reported Monday.

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It is worth noting that the Chicago positivity rate of 4.5% reported Monday is slightly less than that of the state overall -- 4.6% -- and that the collar counties, where some officials once bristled at being lumped together in a zone with the city, now are seeing positivity rates markedly higher than Chicago's.

Because the state generally has taken the virus seriously from the beginning and imposed strong measures to reduce the spread of disease, Illinois has been among the states best suited to begin re-emerging from conditions of quarantine and strict lockdown.

But the motto behind the renewed drive for all of us to maintain this serious approach still holds true -- masks only work if we wear them. Social distancing only works if we stay apart from each other and avoid crowds.

It's just as important now to wash our hands and avoid touching our faces and taking other precautions as it was when we began emphasizing them way back in March.

For if we don't, we may find to our dismay that the COVID fatigue we feel now is only the beginning.

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