ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford business owners say it feels a bit like history repeating itself as Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday ordered all residents over the age of 2 to resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces.
Pritzker says masking is necessary to prevent the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which is causing Illinois’ hospitals to fill up at an alarming rate. Every county in Illinois is seeing “high transmission” of virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Governor said Illinois is trending toward having more people hospitalized than there are staff to care for them.
Pritzker said those in serious condition in ICUs are “almost exclusively” unvaccinated.
The mask order begins Monday, August 30th and applies to everyone 2-years and older, regardless of vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says even the vaccinated can carry a “full viral load,” which means, even though they may not get sick themselves, they have the ability to pass it on to an unvaccinated person.
At the Discovery Center Museum, masks have always been required, since the museum caters to children.
Marketing Director Anne Marie Walker said staff is prepared in case customers do not comply.
“We’ve all had some training on how to handle those situations,” said Walker. “Fortunately, it’s been very rare that we’ve run into that. Occasionally, we’ll have staff remind people to cover both their nose and mouth.”
Rockford City Market Manager Cathy McDermott explained, “I don’t think it will impact small businesses at all. People will still come in, eat and drink. They’ll just have to wear masks when they’re walking around, which is what our previous procedure was. And now, people are used to it, even though they’ve gotten unused to it, they’ll be ok getting back to it.”
Dana Stempfle said she has chosen to wear a mask to keep her 1-year-old son safe, as well as protect other, unvaccinated people around her.
“I like to go out and do things, and if that means wearing a mask, and other adults wearing a mask, definitely, to keep him safe,” she said. “I hope other people are ok doing it too, to protect the little ones.”
Kelsi Peterson said she believes the mask mandate is a step backwards, and believes masking should be a choice, especially for those who have already received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We don’t need to go back to that,” she said. “We don’t need to be tied down to the mask. Just let us go, let us live our lives and make our own choices for ourselves.”
In addition to the mask mandate, Illinois health care workers and educators from kindergarten through college will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.