Are COVID-19 restrictions working?

Haley Maser, Editor-in-Chief

Just months from the two-year anniversary of the first coronavirus-related lockdowns, it is difficult not to reflect on the lack of progress made in Illinois. With yet another variant and possible case surges making headlines, it is time to figure out how to live with this situation. 

On and off mask mandates have been the norm in Illinois since March 2020. Currently, Illinois has a mask mandate in place, requiring residents to wear a face-covering while indoors. This was announced in late August, shortly after a mask mandate had been announced exclusively for K-12 schools.

According to data from The New York Times, Illinois’ seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases on August 1, 2021, was 1,678 cases. This number increased towards the start of the school year despite mask-wearing, with a 4,146 case average on September 1. This data has remained fairly consistent with the average sitting at 4,290 as of November 30. 

While these stagnant numbers are less than half of what was seen last year during the same period, restrictions show no signs of loosening. “We have an indoor mask requirement in the state of Illinois and so we’re not lifting that, especially now,” stated Governor Pritzker. 

While some states have concerns regarding the Omicron variant and upcoming holiday gatherings, many southern states are seeing their case numbers at all-time lows.

As of November 30, Florida’s seven-day average of new cases was 1,230. Additionally, South Carolina’s was 562 cases, Oklahoma’s 750 cases, and Arkansas’ only 530. What all of these states have in common is they do not have a mask mandate in place and went as far as to attempt to ban mask mandates in schools, despite being blocked in some cases. 

“Under South Carolina law, anybody who wants to wear a mask — in a school setting or elsewhere — is free to do so, but the governor isn’t going to ignore a parent’s fundamental right to make health decisions for their children,” stated Brian Symmes, a spokesman for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.

These states undeniably saw cases peak at the beginning of the school year, with Florida seeing new case averages in the 20,000s and South Carolina’s in the upper 5,000s. However, these case surges dramatically decreased by October, ushering in the lowest COVID-19 numbers across the country. 

While every state has different tactics in handling this pandemic and different contributing factors, data shows that mask mandates and heavy restrictions are not working. States that have relaxed guidelines and left mask decisions up to individuals are reporting improved numbers. With the new variant showing up in many states, only time will tell how these differing policies hold up.