Social distancing: Practicing it and mask wearing is different in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri


Sarah and I ventured to Jefferson City, Mo., late last week to visit son number one, Paul, and his wife, Kendall. It was our first trip out of the area since the pandemic started.

We've been on quite a roll with our kids over the past three weeks. First, son number two, Vincent, ventured to Galena with his girlfriend, Emily.

Then daughter, Jane–she’s a one and only–arrived with her husband, Mike. Mike brought a wonderful treat: beer he made with maple syrup from a tree in his yard.

Yummy. . .but strong!

As we grow in age, the time we spend with our adult children becomes ever more fulfilling.

I was curious to see how social distancing might take place as we drove through Iowa and into Missouri. Social distancing protocols in both states are more relaxed than Illinois.

At the Casey’s in Springville, Iowa, more than half of the patrons wore masks. Cashiers put on masks when working with a customer. At a convenience gas station in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, a few people wore masks, as did the cashiers.

In Missouri, there seemed to be little effort taking place to social distance and wear masks. At a convenience gas station in Kingdom City, where U.S. 54 and I-70 intersect, masks were non-existent.

At the Culver’s restaurant in Jefferson City all staff wore masks. Made me feel comfortable. But, at Prison Brews, it was the opposite.

It’s interesting this patchwork of COVID-19 responses taking place. The strategies for dealing with COVID-19 have been as varied as the number of states. When this is all over, it will be interesting to see which strategies worked best.

This patchwork of responses is confusing for those crossing state borders, especially for visitors coming to Galena. We’ve heard of visitors from other states with relaxed protocols coming without masks and being surprised to learn masks were needed to enter into businesses.

The numbers tell a lot. This past week, 17 states reported declines in confirmed COVID cases. They are Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.

Both Iowa and Missouri are seeing increases as are Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and others. The rate of infection among younger people is growing as well. It’s a troubling sign.

I think most people realize that a “one shoe fits all” response to the pandemic isn’t ideal. The needs in large urban areas such as Chicago are different than rural communities. The issues in Galena, with its tourism industry, are different than other rural areas. However, that makes things more complicated.

It’s evident that being safe and secure and feeling safe and secure are two very different things. People scoff at wearing a mask–especially being told to wear a mask.

But, if you believe taking responsibility for your actions is a core responsibility then wearing a mask protects others around you.

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COVID-19 is not a “little flu,” as some have suggested. In the United States, nearly 120,000 people have died and over 2.2 million have tested positive. Worldwide, 469,000 have died and 9 million have tested positive.

This is not fake news. The source is from the Centers for Disease Control.

I feel that traveling to see Paul and Kendall was a risk. It’s wonderful to see them. But when traveling, one does lose control of who you see and what you touch along the way.

I’m sure Sarah and would make the same decision–in an instant–to travel. But I still feel on edge. I’m sure that we’ll feel that way for quite some time as the ravages of COVID-19 continue to plague our world.

As I write this, a press release from Gov. JB Pritzker’s office has just arrived going into detail how Illinois will further open during the fourth phase of Restore Illinois. Beginning June 26, these activities, which pertain to this area, will be permitted:

•meetings and events: venues can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people or 50 percent of overall room capacity. This includes activities such as conferences and weddings.

•indoor and outdoor recreation: allow select indoor recreation facilities, as well as clubhouses, to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers or 50 percent of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50; concessions permitted with restrictions.

•indoor dining: reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced six feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25 percent of capacity.

•museums: no more than 25 percent occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.

•outdoor seated spectator events: no more than 20 percent of seating capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.

•youth and recreational sports: allow competitive game play and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50 percent of facility capacity, 20-percent seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50; concessions permitted with restrictions.

•health and fitness centers: allow gyms to open at 50 percent capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors.

•day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50 percent of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly.

The governor’s press release also noted that “common public health standards remain in effect–including the use of face coverings and social distancing.”

Iowa, Illinois and Missouri have all chosen different paths. It’ll be interesting to see how all this pans out.

P. Carter Newton, publisher