Mask mandate no more


Drew Hawkins

Photo Illustration: The country has been waiting to get rid of masks for almost two years. Finally, students get to do so in Illinois schools.

Drew Hawkins, Staff Writer

A judge in Sangamon County recently ruled it unconstitutional for schools, J.B. Pritzker, and the Illinois State Board of Education to enforce masks in schools. This decision by the judge left some schools who were not a part of the case confused. Geneva Community United School District 304 shut down Monday, Feb. 7 due to the ruling. While most Southern Illinois schools were shut down for snow, they were given a day to think on how to interpret the ruling. 

Superintendent Mike Gauch made an announcement on the Bulldog app the same Monday night announcing the school will go by the rules set in a school board meeting in July of 2021. The meeting stated that students and teachers aren’t forced to wear a mask but are encouraged to do so. As far as other COVID protocols, students would still have to follow their local health departments. 

The ruling seemed fair considering COVID has a 99.714% survival rate which would place it above influenza by a slight margin in deaths.

Pritzker made an announcement within 24 hours of the court ruling that the state planned to drop the indoor mask mandate everywhere except for schools at the end of February. Pritzker claimed that schools didn’t have sufficient tools to be able to combat COVID. Pritzker turned to Attorney General Kwame Raoul who agreed and said he would soon appeal to the decision made by the Sangamon judge.

About two weeks after the Sangamon County judge’s decision was made, the CDC announced that wearing masks is not necessary for those of the population who are not at risk of a bad reaction to COVID-19. Now it seems as if Pritzker has made a complete 180 degree turn on his thoughts on COVID. 

“I love it,” Pritzker said. “I’m so excited that we now have no indoor mask mandates. That we have no more school indoor mask mandates, and it’s all because the people of Illinois did the right thing throughout this pandemic and that we’ve been able to bring hospitalizations down.” 

Even though Pritzker has claimed he was happy, he was just trying to bring back masks in schools. This brings one question to the table. Was he really worried about the safety of the students in schools or was he worried about the power he was able to hold?

Since the ruling, HHS has only a handful of its population choosing to wear a mask. It is great that students can still want to wear a mask if they believe it protects them. It is their choice and hopefully it will continue to be their choice. However, there is much to be learned from this experience. 

Wearing a mask should be a choice just as many other things. If the average person were to contract COVID, they would have a 0.00286% chance of dying so a mask mandate can’t honestly be said to be necessary for public safety. 

We should be mindful and aware of what power our government is able to hold over us. We also need to know what limits the government has, even in times of distress such as the beginning of COVID pandemic. We must question our government’s power and continue to be brave by standing up for what is right even if it is not popular.