Oliver: Stay-at-home order meant to protect you, not stifle freedom

The extension of Illinois’ stay-at-home order didn’t surprise too many people. After all, more than 1,000 people a day are testing positive for COVID-19. Far too many still are dying.

These aren’t just numbers. Each one of the more than 2,600 people who have lost their lives in Illinois was someone’s mother or daughter, father or son, co-worker or friend. Each had a story that went far beyond catching an illness that no one had ever heard of before last year.

If we extend those numbers to the nation as a whole, the numbers are even more staggering. More than 68,000 Americans have died so far, and the number continues to climb daily. By comparison, 2,977 died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Certainly, the fact that more than 1 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and most of them have survived might be giving some a false sense of security.

Can any of us really say it’s OK that thousands of our fellow Americans die, particularly when we can do something about it?

I shudder to think about the ethical debate Sweden will have when it has to come to grips with knowingly allowing thousands of its elderly citizens to die because they would not take measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Is wearing a mask in public really such a hardship when we can make sure more lives aren’t lost?

The warmer weather has posed a challenge for all of us to remain at home. Who doesn’t want to get out there and be active?

Yet, the restrictions that we’re under have allowed for that. We just have to remember to follow the guidelines. Stay 6 feet apart and wear a mask in places where that distance cannot be maintained.

We can still go walking, visit parks and play golf. We can ride bicycles, jog and go fishing. We can dig in the dirt in our gardens, trim our trees and mow our lawns.

We just have to understand that things are going to have be a little different for a while longer.

Here’s the thing: You can be infected and look perfectly healthy. You can be infected and feel fine for a few days before you start showing symptoms.

Why, one maintenance worker is said to have infected 40 people in a nursing home because he wasn’t showing symptoms when he was working in the residents’ rooms. He eventually died and so did a number of those residents.

When you wear a mask, you prevent the possibility of infecting a bunch of people. If everyone wears a mask, the likelihood the virus will spread is lessened.

The mask will not necessarily prevent you from getting infected if someone nearby fails to wear a mask and has the virus. Assume everyone is infected and keep your distance.

Many Illinoisans are doing a wonderful job of following the guidelines and helping to not overwhelm our health care system. Thank you for that.

Still, many of us are suffering. This is more than a loss of the ability to go grocery shopping. Some of us are facing bills that have to be paid and struggling to put food on the table. You are not being forgotten.

However, if we can just hold on a little longer, we’re going to see the other side of this. Let’s not rush things and cause more people to die.

Here’s one way to think about it: We can look at this lockdown like a prison, where we’re trapped and unable to go where we want.

Or we can realize that the restrictions, those bars holding us in, are keeping out a roaring lion that would like nothing more than to devour us.

Prison or protection? Sometimes it’s really a matter of how you want to look at it.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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