Let's face it, everyone.
At this point in the pandemic, no one wants to wear a mask again. But it's the reality we live in.
Earlier this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they were recommending people in regions with great, substantial risk for COVID-19 outbreaks to wear face masks — regardless of vaccination status.
Most Southern Illinois counties, due to the Delta variant and low vaccine rates, are grappling with a sharp rise in cases, so it's time to mask up.
I think the CDC announcement was a good move, though one that should have come much sooner. Or, better yet, the CDC never should have let its guard down in the first place earlier this year when the federal agency announced vaccinated people could put their masks away in most settings.
This Fourth of July, even President Joe Biden celebrated what he called this country's independence from COVID-19. At the time, cases and deaths were at or near record lows.
This week, CDC leadership said they changed course due to the fact fewer people than expected have chosen to get vaccinated in the U.S. and the more transmissible Delta variant now makes up about 8 out of 10 out of every cases sequenced in labs.
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But I'm not here to talk about the variant or about face masks. I'm here to talk about what's actually going to give us a fighting chance: Getting vaccinated.
I'm personally vaccinated, as is (most) everyone in my family and my core circle of friends. Before signing up for an appointment, I'll admit I obsessed over the research and had fleeting worries of getting the shot.
We so easily — and with little question — put toxic substances in our bodies all the time. We drink alcohol to excess. We chain smoke. We chase our heart-attack-inducing double cheeseburger and fries with cholesterol medication that has a litany of potentially dangerous side effects.
Cigarettes have long been proven toxic; chronic alcohol use is a serious documented, problem in this country — and yet we have people questioning the safety of this vaccine?
I understand some people believe taking — or not taking — the vaccine is a personal choice. But at this point in the pandemic — with a more contagious, Delta variant spreading like wildfire in our communities — your seemingly insignificant personal choice is not occurring in a vacuum.
The severe implications of not getting vaccinated resonate within your own body, and with your friends, family members, and neighbors.
Remember, the vaccine doesn't make you completely immune to COVID-19 or make you unable to spread it to loved ones, but it does provide protection from severe illness.
To the people who are hesitant to get the vaccine: Can you reconsider — please? What research have you read that's led you to believe these vaccinations are wildly unsafe and that the risks outweigh the benefits?
I ask you to read beyond the headlines, click past the conspiracy theories online, and call up your trusted, primary care doctor.
They'll help you make the right choice.
Lauren Cross is the interim editor for The Southern. She can be reached at 618-351-5807 or email@example.com.