DeKalb residents protest against mask, vaccine mandates

Man+who+supports+Illinois+Standing+Against+Tyranny+holds+sign+during+protest.

Sean Reed | Northern Star

Man who supports Illinois Standing Against Tyranny holds sign during protest.

Gabriel Fiorini, News Reporter

DeKALB — DeKalb residents against face masks and vaccine mandates cited “governmental overreach” as the reason they opposed the requirements at a protest held Sunday. 

Protesters held poster boards on the corner of Lincoln Highway and First Street, professing their disapproval of the mask and vaccine mandates in August. 

The protest comes shortly after an executive order outlining the state’s response to the present public health emergency. The order also declares counties in Illinois as ‘disaster areas’ granting the governing body emergency powers. These powers facilitate disaster response and help the state government utilize resources they otherwise could not.

“I would say the main reason that I oppose it is because of the word ‘mandate,’” said Joshua Alvarado, a representative from a group called Illinois Standing Against Tyranny. “Don’t force me to (wear a mask) if I don’t want to.”

The protest was organized by the Libertarian Party of DeKalb and was planned by Ciara Mathey, the party’s local event planner and coordinator.

“I’ve been talking to multiple families who have been upset by the mandates, especially ones that have college kids at NIU,” Mathey said. “We just wanted to show people that we’re here and we hear them, and we want to fight for them too, for their freedoms. We know the risk. So, we know our risk. We know our health. We know what we can and can’t do.” 

Mathey’s feelings towards the COVID-19 vaccine mirrored those of the mask mandate. 

“We just think that if there’s any sort of risk, or something like that because there are, there has been adverse reactions reported; wherever there’s a risk, there should be a choice,” Mathey said. “So if there’s a risk to you and you feel like there is, then you should have that choice, to be able to decide against it and not lose your job or not be able to go to school or work.” 

Yet, as the Delta variant accounts for the majority of COVID-19 cases and ICU beds begin to fill in regions with low vaccination rates, medical experts continue to recommend the use of masks and face coverings in indoor public areas. 

“In IDPH region 5, Southern Illinois, with the lowest vaccination rate in the state at 44%, only 3% of ICU beds are available as the region experiences the highest case rate in the state,” according to an Illinois news release. “Since Aug. 1, local health departments across the state have reported 27 COVID-19 outbreaks at schools and currently hundreds of schools are being monitored for potential COVID-19 exposures.

Although regions with the lowest vaccination rates are hit hardest by COVID-19 and its Delta variant, no vaccine is 100% effective

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that individuals exposed to the virus after being vaccinated are less likely to develop serious illness and much less likely to result in death. Breakthrough cases are those in which fully vaccinated individuals are infected by COVID-19 or one of its variants.

Still, those who contract the virus regardless of vaccine status are contagious and may spread COVID-19 to those unable to receive a vaccination or those who have opted out. 

“Some people think if one person dies, we all have to wear a mask, like hundreds and thousands of people and I’m not in that camp because the flu has always killed people, you know, every year the flu comes around and kills a bunch of people,” said Tom Portegys, DeKalb resident and NIU alumnus. “At the beginning of COVID, I took all the precautions. I got my vaccine, and data says I’m gonna be okay, and you’re gonna be okay.”

There has been a bevy of studies conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19. One study has shown that mandating mask use in public has been associated with a decline in the daily COVID-19 growth rate.

“The vast majority of hospitalizations, as well as cases and deaths, are among those who are unvaccinated; this has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in the Illinois news release. “We have safe, proven, and effective tools to turn the tide and end this pandemic, but until more people are vaccinated, masks are the order of the day and will help us slow the spread of the virus.”