Our View: The vaccinated are being asked to save the unvaccinated from themselves

The least vaccinated areas are the least likely to follow these masking recommendations

We continue to fail the group project.

The unvaccinated make up more than 97% of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois since Jan. 1. They were more than 86% of new cases and hospitalizations in June. Yet, no amount of data, pleading, heartfelt anecdotes, facts about the more transmissible delta variant, advice from medical professionals, family persuasion or even the chance to win $100,000 from the state is moving the needle in any significant way on vaccinations in the state.

Prior to Thursday, at no point in the previous three weeks have we averaged more than 23,000 vaccines in a day, down more than half of where we were in parts of mid-June.

New guidance on Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adopted later that day by the Illinois Department of Public Health, amounted to a request recommending “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.” It also recommended that masks be worn indoors even by vaccinated people in parts of the country where the coronavirus is surging.

How do you define surging? In Illinois, should we assume this eventually will apply to all of us, or just the mostly unvaccinated portions of our state? If we still were in Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s virus plans, two southern regions of the state would be facing extra mitigations because of sustained high positivity rates, caused by the spread of the delta variant.

This biggest question we have is this – how much good are technically worded recommendations like these going to actually do?

Unfortunately, this vaccine has been swallowed up by our country and state’s polarization. That’s not the CDC’s or IDPH’s fault necessarily, but this half-step of pretty-please guidance doesn’t adjust to that.

Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The least-vaccinated areas are the least likely to follow masking recommendations. Masking up in highly vaccinated areas will do some good, especially in schools, where children younger than 12 still are not eligible for the vaccines. It will reduce the chances of a breakthrough infection to an unvaccinated person. But it doesn’t do much for the actual problem of almost half the state not being fully vaccinated.

Instead, the CDC and IDPH are asking the vaccinated to save the unvaccinated from themselves.

Clear, concise guidance was needed, not more confusion and placing more of the burden back on those who have done the work to get out of this pandemic.