With COVID numbers coming down, and the indoor mask mandate coming off, the next question for many in Evanston is whether to resume in-person meetings, or continue virtual get-togethers.
And if this week’s remote meeting of the city’s Land Use Commission is indicative, there is a desire for in-person sessions as in the good old (pre-COVID) days, but still concern over their medical safety.
“I’m great with it,” commission chair Matt Rodgers told his colleagues during a Zoom session on Wednesday night.
“It’s very difficult to run Zoom meetings with a bunch of different people all over the place, looking for hands and things like that,” Rodgers explained.
At the same time, should the land panel go back in-person in late March or early April, Rodgers said he will still wear a mask, even if it’s not required, as he has a compromised immune system.
“Even after the mandate expires,” Rodgers noted, “I will continue to wear a mask in public until I am sure that we are not going to have a rebound” in COVID-19.
Rodgers also said that if meetings are in-person, “I would hope that anybody who wants to wear a mask feels comfortable” even if face coverings are not required.
The situation is different for private businesses versus government offices.
Once the mask rule is lifted, private companies will still have the right to mandate face masks on their own
In fact, Land Use Commission member John Hewko, who is CEO of Evanston-based Rotary International, said “I’m going to still require them in our Rotary building.”
However, public bodies are not the same. The city attorney’s office said that once the rule is lifted, government agencies cannot mandate masks in their facilities.
But, as with everything else COVID-related, there is still uncertainty over what happens next.
Commission member Jeanne Lindwall indicated that “if we’re going to meet in person, we should not try to do hybrid” (simultaneously virtual and in person), because “that’s very challenging.”
So as of now, it’s still unknown whether this and other city panels will be going back to the future with in-person meetings or not, although it seems headed in that direction, particularly with the CDC’s Friday easing of nationwide mask guidelines.
The Land Use Commission is expected to discuss options during its March 9 meeting, which will be held via Zoom.