Since Feb. 4, every region in Illinois has maintained the requirements needed to operate at Phase 4 mitigations. That means bars and restaurants are open for indoor dining at reduced capacity, and other activities that had been suspended, like indoor fitness classes, are back in full force.
Even at such establishments, many precautions still remain in place. At restaurants, tables must continue to be spaced six feet apart, masks are required unless eating and drinking, patrons are expected to be seated the majority of the time and no parties of more than 10 people are allowed.
Many restaurants have added additional mitigation efforts, such as temperature checks for all parties before seating and putting sneeze guards between booths. Others have added costly outdoor dining areas for when the weather returns to more livable conditions.
Yet there is still a stigma in the minds of many that going out to eat or drink means throwing all caution to the wind. While many people remain uncomfortable with going out, and that is okay, it does not mean that people who do go out should be seen as selfish, or even worse, as COVID-deniers.
Let’s start with the most obvious fact: restaurants and bars are allowed to be open under Governor JB Pritzker’s state reopening guidelines. These guidelines were put into place as a response to rising case numbers and test positivity rates, and the strict mitigations that were put in place to prevent holiday surges are no longer in effect.
While it might be hard to totally trust the mitigation efforts, there are a few other factors to keep in mind before shaming someone for grabbing a beer. As of Feb. 14, Illinois has administered a total of 1,783,345 vaccine doses, with an average of nearly 63,000 shots a day, according to data from the Chicago Tribune. Anybody working in healthcare has been eligible for the vaccine for some time now, which is well earned after the sacrifices many of them have made.
It should come as no surprise then that healthcare workers and others who have been vaccinated might want to go out for food and drinks. With a 95% vaccine effectiveness paired with mask wearing and social distancing, the chances of them spreading COVID-19 are incredibly slim. So, what harm could a night out for them possibly bring?
Senior nursing major Kelly Calcagno has received both doses of the Moderna vaccine. She explained that, “I am definitely more relaxed about going out, however I’m still wearing my mask everywhere, not taking it off and washing my hands all the time. I still try to act as though I’m not vaccinated.” Additionally, Calcagno added that everyone should make their best effort to get the vaccine.
Until herd immunity is achieved through mass vaccination, social distancing will still remain in place, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been progress made in returning to pre-COVID life. Businesses like bars and restaurants have been hit harder by the pandemic than just about any others, yet they have still made many efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in their establishments.
While going out is somewhat of a risk, it is a calculated risk, and shaming people for going out, especially vaccinated healthcare workers, is not going to end this pandemic any faster.
Photo credit: Anthony Beimal/Graphic Designer