I've been editing Wikipedia casually for 6 years (originally actively, then more and more casually as I've been progressively locked out of the community), but an edit count "only" in the hundreds will probably place me in the class of users who can no longer freely edit this class of pages... Now I won't be able to freely contribute either.
Incorrect. You'll be be able edit those articles. If you have an account that's just 4 days old and have at least 10 edits (which can be done in about 15 minutes), then that makes you an "auto-confirmed user" and your edits will immediately be seen by readers. The main reason for this new development is to protect the articles of living people from libel. This will help Wikipedians monitor those articles.
See the policy at Wikipedia:Flagged protection and patrolled revisions