Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appealed a downstate circuit court ruling (and a punt by the state’s appellate court) challenging his mask mandate for schools, but the truth is mask mandates appear to be over, and that toothpaste is not going back into the tube.

School districts, including several local ones, announced in the past week that they are going “mask recommended” no later than Feb. 28, the date Pritzker was lifting the mandate for most indoor spaces, save schools.

Masks are off, for better or worse – we’ll no doubt find out that verdict in the coming months in terms of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths – and people across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have determined that it’s time to simply live with the disease in our midst.

There will be a healthy minority of people, we’re guessing, who will continue to wear masks, especially in crowded spaces among complete strangers. There are many who have not so much as caught a cold in the past two years due to masking, and intend to keep that going.

Many more will not wear masks, but we hope it will not be too much to ask – although it always appears it is – for them to leave those continuing to mask-up alone.

The omicron variant surge is ebbing. As of Feb. 18, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health the rolling seven-day average of daily cases was down to 2,985 from its pandemic high of more than 32,000 on Jan. 12.

That’s huge drop, but the Feb. 18 rate is not insignificant. At the height of the delta wave late last summer, the highest seven-day rolling case rate was about 4,300 cases.

And while omicron has been widely held out as a “mild” strain of the disease, that’s really only been the case for those who are fully vaccinated, because the omicron surge was absolutely deadly.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, 14 Brookfield residents died from COVID -19 between Oct. 26, 2021 and Feb. 13, 2022. That’s less than four months. 

The same number of Brookfield residents died of COVID-19, according to the medical examiner during the nearly 20 months that proceeded it.

Six of the nine Riverside residents reported as having died from COVID-19 by the medical examiner did so between Oct. 11, 2021 and Jan. 26. Three North Riverside residents have died since Jan. 1, 2022, according to the ME. Just one North Riverside resident died from COVID-19 in all of 2021, the ME reported.

There are more local residents who have died that the Cook County Medical Examiner has not reported. The Landmark has learned, after hearing about the death of a Brookfield resident at a DuPage County hospital, that the two counties don’t share that info.

We are trying to see whether DuPage County tracks that data and can provide it to us. We’ll let you know.

So, to summarize: Masks are over. COVID is not. Vaccines work. Continue to look out for one another.