Lifting the Mask Mandate – Is It Too Soon?

There is a phenomenon experienced by some of those taking regular medication which puts them in danger. Someone who has been taking medication for a long period of time, long enough to almost cure the issue they needed the medication for, they might think to themselves, “surely I’m alright, then? I clearly don’t need to be medicated for this, I’m fine now.” They stop taking the medication, and all their symptoms come right back, sometimes leaving them worse off than they were before.

This is a phenomenon we have also experienced with COVID-19. Places with low case numbers will assume they are safe from the virus and will lift restrictions, leading to a new surge in cases. For example, California dropped their mask mandate in June and reinstated it in December after cases of new variants rose. 

My worry is that this will happen to campus, now that Chancellor Damphousse has announced masks will no longer be required on campus as of this Thursday. If we lift the mandate tomorrow, we’ll have a little over two weeks before spring break with no masks. A large number of students will travel for spring break, likely unmasked. Then everyone will be brought back together for the rest of the maskless semester. This seems like a recipe for a spike in cases to me, especially with new variants like BA.2 (a subvariant of omicron).

Perhaps I am being paranoid. Perhaps nothing will happen. Maybe two years of wearing a mask has made me complacent and comfortable, and the change to remove the masks is as jarring as the change to introduce them was. But I don’t think I’m in the wrong to be worried for the immediate future.

I do not want to get COVID-19. I think that is a fairly reasonable thing to want. I’ve lost family to the virus; I’ve seen the long-term effects it has on my friends. Those who would accuse me of living in fear of COVID-19 by wearing a mask are not technically incorrect. But why is this meant to be shameful? I want to take precautions against COVID-19 the way I want to take precautions against burning my hand on the stove or being in a car accident. 

I get it. People are tired of the restrictions. Several people on the A-State student app have already made it very clear that they disagree with the mask mandate. But I still feel it’s too soon to completely remove it.

I will probably still continue to wear masks to class, and I’m sure other students and faculty will want to take the same precaution. Some teachers may still require masks in their classrooms, and I think they should have the right to do that. So if you’re cheering on the end of the mandate and are looking forward to breathing all over your peers, I ask that you leave those who choose to continue masking in peace. Much like you, they are making a choice based on their beliefs of what will keep them safe, and they are practicing their right to bodily autonomy. 

And if you do get sick, with COVID-19 or other infectious illnesses, I hope you’ll consider a mask as a way to stop the spread. The one upside to lifting the mask mandate is that it means everyone gets to choose whether or not they want to wear a mask, and it is up to all of us to respect one another’s decisions, even if we don’t agree with them.

Categories: Opinion

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