Editorial: Rise in COVID hospitalizations indicates need to keep mask mandate through the holidays

  • Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said the Illinois indoor mask mandate won't be lifted until at least after Thanksgiving.

    Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said the Illinois indoor mask mandate won't be lifted until at least after Thanksgiving. Associated Press File Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted11/18/2021 1:00 AM

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are rising again in Illinois. By Wednesday, the numbers were already 35% higher than when they flattened out in late October. And according to our report from Jake Griffin, hospitalizations for COVID-19 went up 16.8% in just one week.

The rise in numbers is not entirely unexpected as the seasons change and people transition their lives from outdoors to indoors. What it indicates in practical terms, though, is that Gov. Pritzker would be wise to keep the statewide mask mandate for the holidays -- unless there is a dramatic drop in hospitalized COVID patients.

 

In late October, numbers of hospitalized patients somewhat plateaued, floating between 1,198 and 1,278 cases. By Nov. 5, however, hospitalizations rose to 1,334 and -- a few dips notwithstanding -- the numbers have steadily risen to more than 1,600.

The holidays, bless them, bring much-needed friend and family gatherings. It's the perfect antidote to being cooped up, and unfortunately, the perfect breeding ground for spreading the coronavirus.

Hospitalizations are a key stat for gauging the overall health of Illinois residents. So, we are right to worry about ourselves and our families and friends. Even the October plateau, which caused rejoicing in some quarters, was problematic because the numbers leveled off at higher points than the plateaus that went before it.

Cold, hard numbers alone don't always convince people. But, put a face to those numbers and it gets easier. Want to be part of the solution and not the problem? Just wear a mask when you aren't alone.

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Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has already said that the statewide mask mandate won't be lifted before Thanksgiving. Nobody wants to hear it, us included, but we need that kind of leadership to continue coming from the governor's office.

Ezike has said she believes that at least part of the problem stems from unmasked indoor gatherings.

These kinds of gatherings will only ratchet up in the coming weeks. If you are hosting, it's your responsibility to keep your guests safe. You call the shots. Don't be hesitant to send out texts and emails ahead of time, telling friends and family that you take your responsibility seriously, and you are determined that no one will get exposed to the virus at your house. And then keep a box of disposable masks at the front door for people who forget.

We are getting very near the end of this crisis, it often seems. But we aren't fully there yet. We just need to stay the course.

Yes, see your family this holiday season. Just be prepared to wear a mask if you are going to be around people who aren't in your normal family unit. Even if no one says thank you -- or worse, gives you grief about it -- remember that you are right.

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