Kevin Moore wears a mask in the Lakeview neighborhood on Friday, May 29, 2020. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — The head of the Illinois Department of Public Health took issue Thursday with people who oppose wearing masks to protect others from the spread of coronavirus, saying it’s like playing “Russian roulette.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the state’s health department, told mask opponents Thursday, “Your individual actions, or even your inactions, will still affect everyone in this state.

“I’m likening the refusal to wear face coverings to a game of Russian roulette, as we don’t know who’s infected; we don’t know if we are infected. We’re just taking a chance.

“This game of ‘Russkaya ruletka’ is a game that is very risky. The stakes are high. It’s potentially fatal. Let’s not gamble with coronavirus. We don’t even know the longterm affects of having COVID-19 — what might happen to our lungs five, 10, 20 years after being infected.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Dr. Emily Landon, UChicago Medicine’s executive medical director for Infection Prevention and Control, also addressed the maskless during Gov. JB Pritzker’s afternoon coronavirus media briefing.

Dr. Emily Landon

“I understand that many people have come to see wearing a mask as some sort of political symbol,” she said. “But unless the mask literally has a political statement written it, it’s not political. It’s a piece of fabric that covers a part of your body that needs to be protected, like gloves in the winter or my dress.

“… The only message I see when somebody wears a mask is that you care about your health and mine. That you’re not willing to take a chance or gamble with this virus.”

Ezike and Landon urged Illinoisans to continue to wear a mask — something that has been required when in public and around other people since May 1.

Even though the state has progressed in its fight against coronavirus and will move into Phase 4 of reopening Friday, the two said people need to continue to wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart from others and wash their hands frequently.

Those measures will prevent further spread of COVID-19, which is still active in Chicago and Illinois, which in turn will save lives and prevent Illinois from having to backtrack and close down businesses, officials said.

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