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Free at last? Doesn’t look like it.

Here we go again? Unfortunately.

Frustrating as it is, the powers that be in

Illinois are resorting to mask mandates/suggestions in response to a new outbreak of the coronavirus that includes even those who have been vaccinated.

Locally, the University of Illinois is requiring masks to enter its buildings while Parkland College is recommending masks and hoping for compliance. Public libraries in Champaign and Urbana are requiring masks.

Statewide, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that face coverings are now required in all state facilities for both those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

Pritzker attributed his decision to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a majority of the state’s 102 counties “are experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.”

“Vaccines work — but we cannot promise those protections for every single future variant if we allow this virus to spread and mutate unchecked in our communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Janel L. Forde, Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, said, “masking up is a step that we all can take to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The CDC reports that the risk of virus transmission is “substantial” in Champaign, Macon, Douglas and Piatt counties. It is described as “high” in Vermilion and Ford counties.

State and local officials are attributing this setback in addressing the virus’s spread to the large numbers of people who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

It reports that 48 percent of Champaign County’s population has been fully vaccinated and a much higher vaccination rate of nearly 80 percent of the elderly, the most vulnerable population segment.

In contrast, just 28 percent of Vermilion

County’s population is fully vaccinated, while

63 percent of those 65 and older have been.

Ford County shows a population vaccination rate of 41 percent and a rate of 76 percent amid those 65 and older.

It’s imperative to get those numbers higher, if only to stave off more obnoxious restrictions on people’s activities. Didn’t people get enough of that over the past year of lockdowns, business closings, Zoom meetings and all the other disastrous consequences of this sickening pandemic?

Of course, some may wonder what the point of getting a vaccination is if Pritzker and others are going to impose mask mandates anyway.

It’s a fair question, but in the end irrelevant. The mandates are back and will only expand if people don’t step up and do the smart thing both for themselves and society as a whole.

It seems obvious that many people — both here and elsewhere — don’t have an opinion on the efficacy of the available vaccines but a position of opposition to any involvement with them.

One can attribute that to the unfortunate politicization of the vaccine issue that goes back to 2020 when people like then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was expressing skepticism of what she called “Trump vaccines.”

Actually, they are vaccines produced by brilliant scientists at major drug companies, and they work. Unless those vulnerable to the virus have a compelling medical reason not to do so, those unvaccinated should get their shots.

It seems clear from the local reports that those who have been hospitalized as a consequence of the virus are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. They get the sickest and they remain in the hospital the longest.

What’s the point of running that risk? There isn’t one. Just do it.

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