No, BPS Should Not Lift Its Mask Mandate

By Mia White (III), Contributing Writer

In the past few years, the subject of mask-wearing has been a constant source of debate. Masks are an essential part of keeping COVID-19 cases at a minimum, proven time and time again by the recent surges of the Omicron and Delta variants. In addition to shielding the individual from viruses, they also provide protection to others against any additional contagious sickness the wearer could be carrying.

While a decrease in new cases has brought about the argument for a change in mask mandates and policies within schools, the inconsistent patterns of cases over the past few months tell a different story.

The recent surges of COVID-19 cases due to both the Omicron and Delta variants follow the pattern of a spike that occurs right after a period when cases are low and mask restrictions begin to relax. This suggests that what seems like the best course of action one week could have negative consequences the next. If the mask mandate is lifted this week, what would the repercussions of that decision be shortly after, and at what cost?

When dealing with such an unpredictable and novel virus, it is important to remember and acknowledge the different impacts that it might have on people from all walks of life. Although many young people might not feel extreme symptoms if they were to contract COVID-19, those with compromised immune systems would be severely affected. Beyond that, there might be others who do not wish to bring home the illness to elderly or immunocompromised family members. It is  necessary  to recognize the risk that removing masks poses to everyone, not just the vast majority.

While some may argue that masks hinder personal connection due to the lack of genuine face-to-face communication, this inconvenience comes with plenthy of upsides since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. Without masks worn properly and mandates kept in place, things that people are now able to do, such as commuting, attending school or work and going to social events, would be impossible. Masks slow down the rate in which COVID-19 spreads, and in doing so, allows people to interact with one another while also staying safe.

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is already difficult, but removing mandates in school would introduce an extra layer of challenges, especially with the many high-traffic areas in the building such as hallways, stairwells and the dining hall. In these spaces, students are often shoulder-to-shoulder with one another with no possible way to exercise social distancing. If one student were to have COVID-19, the chances of it spreading to another student in one of these spaces would be dramatically higher if that student was not wearing a mask. Although indoor space is not an adjustable variable, preventative mask-wearing is.

After two long years, finding a new normal has been a difficult task for everyone. Through this delicate process, it is important to keep in mind the reasons why mask mandates were put into place. Even though the policies may be a barrier or a bother to some, the benefits that masks bring largely outweigh the slight discomfort — especially when it comes to the safety of the entire community.