Write Team: Ready to ditch the mask for the ‘new normal’

I’m not entirely sure, and I may be going out on a limb here, but I think we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. My hope is that light we’re seeing is coming from outside the tunnel and not an oncoming train.

The tunnel, in this case, is the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all been up to our chins in for the past 15 months.

As of this writing, Illinois should reach Phase 5 in just a couple of days, on June 11. What Phase 5 means is that the state will remove capacity limits and restrictions on all sectors of the economy, with “businesses, schools and recreation resuming normal operations with new safety guidance and procedures.” Conventions, festivals and large events will also be able to resume, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The state also agrees with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that if you have been fully vaccinated, either with one of the two two-shot vaccines or the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you no longer need to wear a mask. Having been fully vaxed since the end of January, this would have been great information to have had about five months ago. As a side note, vaxed is one of the cool new words to come out of the pandemic. My spell check wants to keep changing it to “vexed.”

I know the wearing of masks has been somewhat controversial and I get it, but there has to be a baseline of rules and regulations that we all live by, and I’m one of those that plays by the rules.

According to the website “Illinois Policy” it was May 1, 2020, that Illinois residents were required to wear a mask or face covering in public places and in situations where they were unable to keep their distance from others. The mandate was part of Gov. JB Pritzker’s extension of the stay-at-home order. The governor kept citing the science we needed to follow, and according to the above-mentioned CDC, science was telling us to wear face masks.

Again, whether I agreed with it or not is irrelevant; I follow the rules. So since that time, I have been wearing a mask everywhere. I even bought a cadre of different and colorful masks. I bought one that made me look just like my King Charles Caviler Spaniel. I bought black masks to go with my black funeral suit. I bought Vincent Van Gogh masks for those rare times I ventured out to dinner. I figured I might as well embrace the practice, even if my own breath was enough to kill me at times.

So, on May 13, when the CDC updated their mask guidelines to say that anyone that had been fully vaxed no longer had to wear a mask in public, I again reaffirmed by commitment to playing by the rules and stopped wearing a mask.

Many stores immediately put up new signs that read along the lines of, “we strongly encourage the wearing of a mask unless you have been fully vaccinated,” which in my opinion gave a bit of wiggle room to those who have not been vaccinated.

So maybe by this weekend, we can start to see life getting back to normal or whatever the new normal is going to look like. I for one, am thrilled to be facing that reality, not wearing a mask.

• Jonathan Freeburg is an Ottawa transplant for the past 26 years and a regular contributor to 1430 WCMY Radio. His real job is insurance as a cover-holder for Lloyd’s of London. He can be reached at tsloup@shawmedia.com.