I have received many inquiries from residents regarding the Village’s policy regarding mask wearing within the community. The recent CDC guidelines and subsequent policy alignment by the State of Illinois are as clear as mud with respect to best practices for continued reduction in the spread of COVID-19. Once again, as a Village we are left with many missing puzzle pieces, and I can assure you that Village staff and your elected local servants continue to wrestle with the incomplete data and cryptic guidelines issued by State and Federal agencies.
Remember, unlike most of our neighboring communities, early in the pandemic I was unwilling to use my authority under the Disaster Declaration to mandate masks. At that time, I put my faith in the good judgment and common sense of our citizens to respect the concerns of their neighbors and merchants, and to wear masks where requested.
Currently, the guidance from the State of Illinois specifies that fully vaccinated people can resume many activities indoors and outdoors without wearing a mask, including shopping in businesses. However, businesses are empowered to require masks if they make that determination, in the same way that businesses can require customers to wear a shirt and shoes. In today’s litigious environment, one can imagine the myriad potential complaints that might arise in workplace environments where employees are at risk due to repeated contact with the public: both those vaccinated and unvaccinated. Clearly, merchants must manage their risks, and if their mitigation strategies include requiring patrons and employees to mask up, we should all do our best to respect and understand their concerns, and comply. We all possess the freedom to decide who we patronize, and if you find a particular requirement bothersome, you are always welcome to take your business elsewhere. Of course, my preference is to simply recognize the hardships our merchants have endured over the past 18 months, mask up, and shop locally.
I know we are all “so over” the pandemic and the horrible impact it has imposed on our lives. Our children have suffered in ways most of us can’t even imagine, with the isolation of remote learning, curtailed extracurricular activities, and missed family events and visits. We can only guess what residual long-term impacts COVID-19 will leave in its wake. The good news is that we are nearing the end, and it is my hope that as a community we will come through this stronger and more connected than ever before. Let’s not taint all the hard work we have put forth to this point, and recognize that many individuals and businesses are still managing issues that transcend our personal annoyance and inconvenience. If we continue to accommodate and respect the diversity of opinion and experience, we will soon cross the finish line as a better Winnetka.
For many, the question of whether to mask is a hot-button issue, but please remember that COVID-19 is a major public health concern, and many individuals have conditions that put their health at greater risk than normal. Please respect your friends, neighbors, and local businesses if their mask preference differs from yours, and please continue to wear masks at local businesses that maintain posted signs asking you to wear one.
If you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination and looking for resources, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s website maintains a list of available vaccination locations.