Molly is a junior in her second year in journalism. She manages the varsity football team on the side and enjoys cooking and baking.
Navigating Masks in a Changing COVID World
February 28, 2022
After the Fluvanna school board voted to make masking optional in school a few weeks ago, students and staff may be reminded of a play on Shakespeare’s famous question– namely, “To mask, or not to mask?”
Personally, I am tired of wearing a mask every day, all day, but due to my having had COVID-19 in January along with the rest of my family (not a fun experience!) I am choosing to still wear a mask. Once I feel comfortable enough to not wear a mask in public, I won’t wear it in classrooms. But due to the continuing number of COVID-19 cases and the hundreds of students in the hallways, even then I will probably still wear one in the hallways to classes.
There are many reasons to wear a mask. They help protect you and others. For some people, wearing a mask makes them feel more comfortable whether due to fears of COVID-19, or–for people like me who are shy–because you can hide behind them.
On the other hand, however, not wearing a mask allows some students to focus better and be more comfortable in school. For some, masks are an unwelcome educational distraction in class, particularly for younger students who find that masks prevent them from learning the basics such as their ABCs, numbers, reading skills, and other skills that you will use your entire life.
Here at the high school students, however, many students ripped off their masks the second they heard that they were optional. Personally, I don’t particularly like to wear the mask, but I am often around people for whom getting COVID-19 could be very dangerous, like my grandmother who is over 65, and my uncle who has some medical issues. So despite the inconvenience, I choose to still wear my mask to make it less likely that I could expose them to the virus.
There is still a lot of controversy over whether or not wearing a mask in schools is a good thing or not. There are a lot of people who believe that wearing a mask does not protect you from getting the virus, particularly the Omicron strain, citing studies that have shown that cloth masks only reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 by as little as 5%. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who think that wearing a mask is very important, citing other studies which show that wearing a properly-fitted mask may reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 by 30-50%. As with so many aspects of the virus, it’s hard to know which studies to trust.
The result has been that a lot of students remain conflicted about masks. For example, senior Mia Martinez said that she “wasn’t that excited” to hear about the board’s vote to make masks optional, especially when they also got rid of contact tracing. “I prefer to have [my mask] on, because some of my family is older and immune-compromised, and I work with a lot of older people,” she said. However, she admits to being “kinda torn” on the issue. “On one hand, there could be a lot of people that are vaccinated, and on the other hand, we are concentrated in small classrooms,” she said.