Dear Governor Pritzker,
The pleasant exchange of letters between you and Leader Durkin ended with you requesting any ideas on how to help us move forward through this deadly pandemic. I have two ideas.
As you likely remember, I was the first state elected official to push for the use of face masks. Especially in adults, study after study has confirmed their effectiveness in combating the spread of COVID-19. And while some recent data showcases the limitations of masks in younger children, I do agree that there is a time and place for their use in schools.
However, let’s keep in mind that the science is not clear on how to handle this. The World Health Organization does not recommend masks for those under six years old ever, and only in areas of significant spread for those under twelve years old. There are downsides for younger children wearing masks. For example, social emotional learning is directly tied to facial expressions.
During mid-summer when the pandemic seemed to be waning, school boards were voting on mask mandates. My advice then and still is that any mandate should be tied to reasonable metrics that people from all sides can agree upon.
My first idea is to place metrics on the mask requirements. This means having the mandate go into effect when the positivity rate is above a certain point, and then having them automatically removed once they drop below a certain point. It will give communities hope and a goal, making it easier for citizens to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.
My second idea is to localize the community spread metrics more. For instance, I live in Plainfield. Plainfield is partially in Will County and partially in Kendall County. The current Will County region (Region 7) touches the Indiana border, while the Kendall County region (Region 2) touches the Iowa border. Will County influences the spread of COVID-19 in the Kendall County portion of Region 2 more than a county that touches Iowa does.
I recommend making each county its own region, but calculating that county’s positivity rate from the county itself and any county that borders it. Regions will essentially overlap, creating a more accurate picture of community spread. By using this strategy, initial breakouts will be easier to quickly identify and mitigate. It will also allow for us to consider the use of counties in border states, which seem to have led to increased outbreaks in the past. I will also note it may be better for a large county like Cook County to be broken into two regions. This targeted approach will be more effective at detecting breakout areas early while also limiting mitigation requirements, which will increase compliance.
I look forward to your consideration of these ideas and your response.
State Representative, District 97