A statewide indoor mask mandate went into effect Monday, but Monroe Countians may not be seeing many of their favorite shops around town masking up.
Monroe County Health Administrator John Wagner said the non-compliance is due to a simple reason: the mandate is not backed with enforcement.
For example, during the last statewide mandate, restaurants were told they could lose their liquor license if they defied the order.
“There is no enforcement. That’s one of the issues,” Wagner said. “There is no enforcement mechanism which makes it (more of) a recommendation than a mandate.”
Wagner said while he has been fielding calls from concerned residents, there is nothing he can do other than call the establishments in question and ask them to comply. There are no sanctions, Wagner said, that he can issue on those not wearing masks indoors.
He also said the pandemic having gone on for over a year at this point also factors into non-compliance, as well as questions of the governor’s authority.
“He didn’t get elected governor to be able to make laws himself,” Wagner said. “Initially (with) emergency orders and everything, people understood (and) he had some power, but this has been going on for a year and a half now. We have a democracy. This is not something where one person can just make the rules and everybody follows.”
As far as mask compliance in schools, Wagner said he has not been hearing of many problems.
In addition to the mask mandate, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday a vaccine mandate for educators and health care professionals.
“That’s going to be another issue coming up,” Wagner said, referring to the vaccination order.
The vaccine requirement, which goes into effect this Sunday, Sept. 5, will apply to “all P-12 teachers and staff, all higher education personnel, all higher education students, and health care workers in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities and physician’s offices,” Pritzker said.
Individuals working in these settings who are unable or unwilling to receive their first dose of vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID at least once a week, Pritzker added, and the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education may require more frequent testing in certain situations like in an outbreak.
The mandate is in line with Pritzker’s assertion that “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a phrase used by President Joe Biden.
Pritzker said 98 percent of cases, 96 percent of hospitalizations and 95 percent of deaths since January in Monroe County have been among unvaccinated people.
As the Republic-Times previously reported, Wagner said he has yet to see a fully vaccinated person from Monroe County die of COVID-19.
The Monroe County COVID death toll has remained stable this past week at 96. Wagner said the number of new cases averages 20-25 per day. As of Tuesday, the county has 101 active cases and three active hospitalizations.
The IDPH still classifies Monroe County as a “warning” zone on its risk metrics web page, as its seven-day test positivity rate for Aug. 15-21 is 11.8 percent.
This is in keeping with these figures for previous weeks.
A total of 17,410 eligible Monroe County residents (50.71 percent) are fully vaccinated. That compares to 40.34 percent in Randolph County and 45.48 percent in St. Clair County, according to Tuesday’s IDPH data.
Wagner said the Monroe County Health Department administered approximately 50 doses at Thursday’s clinic, a few of these being third “booster” doses.
The next COVID vaccine clinic at the health department, located at 1315 Jamie Lane in Waterloo, takes place this Thursday, Sept. 2, from 4-6 p.m. Call or text 618-612-6404 or 618-340-4819 for an appointment.
Moderna (ages 18-plus) and Pfizer (ages 12-plus) vaccines will be available. There will be no third dose boosters administered at this clinic.