Should We Lift the Mask-Mandate?

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Graphic by A. Guo

Although masking has become optional, that doesn’t mean you should take off this additional layer of protection.

A. Guo, Editor-in-Chief

Starting Monday, March 7th, masks will become optional in all Wake County Public Schools. This decision is occuring in tandem with the easing of masking guidelines across the entire nation and recent news that the CDC has declared that indoor masking is no longer necessary across 70% of the country

But if you look more closely at the data, Wake County is not part of that 70%. In fact, according to the CDC, the county’s Covid community is ranked high, meaning there are currently 10 new Covid hospitalizations per every 100,000 cases and 10% of inpatient beds being used. And while daily Covid deaths have decreased since the Omicron peak, the numbers are still significantly higher than average fatalities from just a few months ago

It is not only the potential health consequences that are concerning, but the social implications. Masking has become a very political subject throughout the past two years, and the student population is not immune to that. In fact, pressure and fear has already become a reality for many students. Salma Bounini was one of the students who found posters placed on her car’s windshield wipers after a day at school. The papers described how masks made people unable to focus and be happy, “I didn’t really like it because people should respect others’ choices and the fact that the poster was trying to persuade people to take off their masks while in the middle of a deadly pandemic isn’t right.” Other students have viewed the posters with reactions from disbelief to fear.

Multiple students have described that they would be disappointed and would avoid becoming closer with those who choose not to mask. Darren Joyce is one of those people, “I feel the new optional masking policy is extremely irresponsible for a place such as a school to allow during a pandemic. I will continue to wear a mask to ensure the safety of those around me.”

Taylor Hill is a sophomore who is also unhappy with the policy, “My mom and dad both work in the healthcare industry and the potential of a new variant really does concern me.” She discusses how while she is relatively at low risk for the virus, many people around her are immunocompromised like her neighbor who has cancer.

The fact is people are still dying and frontline workers are still continuously being overworked and unprotected. While most of the population is vaccinated, kids who are under five years of age still cannot receive any doses. Even as deaths plummet, conditions of long Covid remain with much still unknown. The fact is other countries like Japan whose population complies with the use of face masks and social distancing have always shown lower numbers despite their aging population and dense population.

Is wearing a piece of cloth on our face so bad that it is worth exchanging lives for? Isn’t the drop in influenza and Covid cases more of a reason to normalize masking into something similar to the likes of seatbelts or fire drills? Why are we so obsessed with getting rid of an additional layer of protection as we withhold vaccines from other countries? And if you are really so desperate to see people’s mouths, why don’t you follow the steps of the deaf community and create clear masks?