Our View: Stop wasting energy on masks. Go get vaccinated

We have two choices as a society: Get vaccinated. Or accept that many people are going to continue to die unnecessarily.

A downstate parent is suing Gov. JB Pritzker over the state’s mask mandate for students. Dozens gathered at Yorkville School District 115′s Center for Innovation Monday to protest the district’s decision to follow the order. Hundreds have signed petitions and attended school board meetings across the region this summer.

All over masks.

It’s a lot of energy and frustration. And it’s not where we should be focused.

The public health message everyone should be fixated on right now is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.

We are in the midst of a completely unnecessary surge – likely thanks to the delta variant and low vaccination rates.

Just over 3,900 new coronavirus cases were reported Wednesday, the most in a single day since April 9 at the peak of the state’s third wave of COVID-19. The state has logged more than 3,000 new cases each day six of the last nine days. Twenty more people were reported dead Friday. Another 24 the day before that.

As of late Thursday, Illinois had 1,652 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, the most since May 13. Of those, 345 were in intensive care units, the most since May 25, and 162 were on ventilators, the most since May 31.

The southern portion of the country – where vaccination rates are also lower – has been hit especially hard.

Earlier this week, the entire state of Arkansas was down to eight total ICU beds. Mississippi’s hospitals are so overrun they are facing failure “within the next 5 to 7 to 10 days,” according to the state’s COVID-19 clinical response leader at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week requested 2,500 out-of-state nurses to help deal with his state’s ongoing virus surge.

We understand the importance of choice and personal freedom, but we also understand the importance of personal responsibility.

Children under the age of 12 do not have the ability to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated as an adult or older child helps protect them.

While children still make up a small percentage of overall hospitalizations, that percentage has tripled since the fall surge to 1.7% from less than one-half of one percent, according to state numbers obtained by the Shaw Local News Network through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The total number of kids under 12 in the hospital last month was 57, just about double the month before and on par with numbers seen in May when school was still in session, the state numbers show.

Overall cases among children 5 to 11 years old also is skyrocketing, increasing 1,453% since the week ending June 26 to 1,678 cases for the week ending Aug. 6, according to data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday.

The vaccine is also likely not as effective for those with suppressed immune systems – for example, those undergoing certain cancer treatments – and getting vaccinated helps protect them, too.

In addition, the more the novel coronavirus is allowed to spread the more chances it has to mutate and therefore the more chances it has to change it a way that makes the vaccines ineffective, undermining all the progress we’ve made so far and making those who chose to get vaccinated less safe.

We’re already seeing worrying signs on this front.

While 99.987% of vaccinated Illinoisans have not been hospitalized with a breakthrough infection, the state reported 185 new breakthrough hospitalizations this week, the largest single-week increase since IDPH started making this data public.

We have two choices as a society: Get vaccinated. Or accept that many people are going to continue to die unnecessarily.

We know our preference. Get vaccinated. Do your part.