My mask is not coming off

People who continue to wear masks in public spaces are just neurotic, my husband says. “You look goofy,” he admonishes me.

A product stall filled with free N95 respirator masks, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sits outside the pharmacy at this Jackson, Miss., Kroger grocery store, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. The Biden administration is making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents. Authorities note the masks’ offer better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 than cloth masks.

A product stall filled with free N95 respirator masks, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sits outside the pharmacy at this Jackson, Miss., Kroger grocery store on Feb. 2.

AP

My mask is not comingoff.

COVID-19 has faded, and people who continue to wear masks in public spaces are just neurotic, my husband says.“You look goofy,” he admonishes me.

On Monday, the most onerous COVID-related mandates will fall away.Customers in public spaces will no longer be required to mask up or produce proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars and gyms in Chicago and throughout Illinois.

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“It’s important for us to recognize this moment for what it is: a huge step forward in our effort to overcome COVID-19,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the media last week.“We would not have been in a position, even a few weeks ago, to be making this kind of announcement today.”

The mask requirement will remain in other venues, including public transportation, hospitals and schools, and other congregant spaces.

“Many residents may continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons, even if they are vaccinated or as more mandates and advisories fade,” Lightfoot said.“Also, some venues may continue to impose their own mitigation efforts to keep their clients and customers safe. That is their right. And we must respect it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its mask guidelines for public indoor spaces on Friday.

I am thrilled the Omicron surge is fading and eager to return to “normal,” whatever that is.But I am not dropping the mask.

According to a recent national poll, 58% of people who live in communities where mask mandates were in place said they will continue to wear them, even if mandates go away.

Another 28% said they would stop wearing masks if they were no longer required to, according to the survey by YouGov/The Economist.And 13% of those polled said they weren’t sure what they would do.The survey of 1,500 U.S. citizens was taken between Feb. 12 and 15.

I am fully vaxxed and boosted. I am among the lucky ones, having dodged the coronavirus for nearly two years.I am in no hurry to end that streak.

I remain afraid — of those who are not afraid.Those who will recklessly continue to disregard ways to keep us all safe, who refuse to get vaccinated.Those who subscribe to wacky conspiracy theories and foolish notions of freedom.

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I live in a state where duly elected state legislators recently insisted on showing up maskless on the floor of the statehouse, gleefully disregarding the health of their fellow lawmakers.

And where grown adults have stormed school board meetings maskless to demand their children attend school mask-free, other vulnerable children be damned.

Restaurant advocates are celebrating the end of the mask and vaccination requirements.Here’s a dirty little secret:Many were already, blatantly disregarding the rules.I saw it for myself — in many crowded Chicago restaurants during the height of Omicron.

As a CTA regular, I must continue to endure fellow passengers who insist on riding mask-free, even when free masks are available on buses and trains.The most defiant are among the unvaccinated.

“Folks, be kind and conscious of your fellow neighbors and any decisions they make for themselves to feel comfortable and protected,” Lightfoot advised at the news conference.

That’s a nice sentiment, but in this pandemic, kindness is not always the rule.

COVID is still with us.I will continue to mask up in most spaces and places.For me, “goofy” is the rule.

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter@mediadervish.

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