Editorial: Refusing to mask and get vaccinated against COVID-19 hurts all of us

  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference Thursday to announce a statewide indoor mask mandate and a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all educators from kindergarten through college.

    Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference Thursday to announce a statewide indoor mask mandate and a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all educators from kindergarten through college. Chicago Sun-Times via AP

  • FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2021, file photo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at East Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill. Illinois health care workers and educators from kindergarten through college will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Pritzker said Thursday, Aug.26, 2021, in announcing new safety protocols that also include a fresh statewide mandate for masks to be worn indoors. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2021, file photo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at East Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill. Illinois health care workers and educators from kindergarten through college will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Pritzker said Thursday, Aug.26, 2021, in announcing new safety protocols that also include a fresh statewide mandate for masks to be worn indoors. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 8/30/2021 11:18 AM

This is why we can't have nice things.

You've heard comics say it, seen cats on memes echo the sentiment, listened to Taylor Swift belt it out in song. But we were reminded last week that "nice things" don't have to be crystal that shatters when dropped or pricey rugs that can be irreparably stained.

 

"Nice things" can be planning a wedding that doesn't involve grilling guests about their vaccine status. Or enjoying a steakhouse dinner without a mask. Or sending your kids to school without worrying that they could wind up in a hospital with COVID-19.

There was much joy when Gov. J.B. Pritzker reopened the state in June, giving weary Illinoisans hope that summer 2021 would be far better than 2020.

And it was -- until climbing COVID-19 numbers and resistance to the vaccine put the brakes on our much dreamed-of "return to normal."

Last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered a return to mask wearing indoors. It feels like a giant step backward, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

Officials across the country should have erred on the side of caution regarding mask recommendations this summer.

The governor shouldn't have left mask mandates up to local leaders when cases rose.

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School boards shouldn't have raised hopes of children leaving their masks at home when they headed back to classrooms, only to have to reverse course.

Angry parents shouldn't have turned the mask debate into something hateful.

And those who have steadfastly refused to get vaccinated should have reconsidered as they heard story after story about people who had once spoken out against the shot but were begging for it in hospital ICUs after it was too late.

This is why we can't have nice things.

The vaccine is a miracle of today's technology. Truly a scientific miracle of our age, and it would be a cruel tragedy if we waste it. True, an infinitesimal number of people may experience a challenging side effect. And true, breakthrough infections occur, usually mild. Yes, boosters will be needed.

But make no mistake: This vaccine saves lives. Those of us who grew up without the threat of polio -- who bear the smallpox vaccine scar so our kids don't have to -- should understand that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

People who ignore history and, worse, spread dangerous lies about the COVID-19 vaccine make a return to the lives we led pre-2020 ever more elusive.

Instead of coming together as we did in the early days of the pandemic, we watch as people fight over mask mandates, threaten elected officials and compare masking and vaccination requirements to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Perhaps this is why we can't have nice things.

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