Editorial: Craig Johnson's ill-conceived rush back to normal
We have long been fans of Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, for the most part at least.
We've found him to be innovative, daring and responsive. He climbs mountains others would walk around. And as a lifer, he's got a devotion to Elk Grove Village that is endearing, genuine and deep.
But when it comes to the approach he plans to take this summer to mask wearing and social distancing, we have to say, he has us scratching our heads.
Of all the suburban mayors we've encountered over the years, Johnson is the one we would regard as the most health conscious.
OK, maybe Tom Hayes, the Boston Marathoner from Arlington Heights, and Jim Schwantz, the one-time NFL linebacker now heading up Palatine, give him a run for his money.
But it's hard to overstate Johnson's health credentials. Lean and athletic, he not only brought a world-class cycling event to Elk Grove Village; he participated in it. He has made the village one of the toughest places in the suburbs for minors to buy alcohol. At one time, he proposed that the village prohibit cigarette sales.
So why, we have to ask, would a health advocate like Johnson ignore the advice of the health experts when it comes to the most dangerous pandemic in our lifetimes?
Under his watch, Elk Grove Village this summer plans to host Rotary Fest, its major summer concert series and a community picnic in mid-July -- without restrictions that would limit crowd size, require social distancing or mandate mask wearing.
"We're opening up," the mayor says. "We're gonna be back to the community that we've always been."
We get it. Johnson would like to see life get back to normal. Who wouldn't?
And perhaps by mid-June that will be possible. With vaccinations, the country has been making great progress toward herd immunity.
But we're not there now. And it's too soon to know if we will be then.
It is one thing for a community to plan these summer events. Some have, although most are holding off.
But it is quite another to declare now that common-sense health precautions will not be needed. That's premature. And it is irresponsible.
As we've seen with superspreader events elsewhere, surges follow and some people get very sick. And some die.
The coronavirus threat is lower these days, but it hasn't disappeared.
Johnson replies to these concerns by saying that those who are uncomfortable with the relaxed rules do not have to attend. But that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat a pandemic poses. A spread of infections affects the entire community, not just those at a single event. And each infection increases the chances of mutations that could make this virus more virulent and more permanent.
Relent, Mr. Mayor. It is too soon to relax the restrictions. If the data this summer shows less caution is needed, a relaxation of restrictions could always be announced then.