Masks are NOT optional

Isa Grunwaldt, Staff Writer

Most of the time when I ask someone to fix their mask, I end up with looks of frustration and exasperated compliance. I find many people trying to prove a point by wearing their masks below their nose or resting on their lips. I sometimes have to tell people in my classes multiple times to put their masks over their noses. I once had to tell someone to put their mask back on their face entirely, and people wonder why I feel so disinterested in being in-person and putting my life at risk. 

When mask-wearing during a pandemic becomes optional, the lives of peers also become optional. It is up to us to decide whether we continue to spread death and disease or if we are mature enough young adults to just put up with it.

We are the future leaders of this country. If we can’t come together to fight a virus that has decimated the lives of millions of people because we have become too partisan, how will our future generations ever hope to lead America as the United States of America? Masks aren’t for Democrats or Republicans. The virus doesn’t care about political affiliation. It has killed indiscriminately on both sides of the aisle. We need cooperation and leadership from everyone.

Science has proven many times that masks decrease the spread of contamination. Many people argue that the CDC and the WHO had originally stated masks were not necessary; however, this was only because we had a lack of testing. Scientists had not yet seen much data to prove masks were effective or not. With an increase in testing, more people were found to have the virus, and the more masks were proven to be effective. With more people testing positive, more data could be found proving that masks were life-saving. 

It shouldn’t be confusing anymore. Mask confusion happened for a short time at the beginning of the pandemic. Being back in school after months of people promoting the use of masks, I can find no excuse for recalcitrance. However, sometimes mistakes can be made, and these situations require just a gentle reminder. 

Another prime time for the spread of the virus occurs during lunch hours and while people eat and drink in class. A distinction needs to be made over appropriate mask-wearing during these times too. What troubles me the most and frustrates me when teachers do the same thing is when they take their masks off to eat or drink and leave their masks down in between chews and or talk with their masks down. Some people even sneeze or cough with their masks down. While I don’t believe this is malicious, it disturbs me greatly that people don’t think their actions are a problem, and it must stop. Especially for teachers who the students follow by example, I can’t fathom this behavior. It is extremely high risk in cramped classrooms.

It can be lonely to be the only person in my classes who speaks up. I would hope more people would respectfully ask their peers to remember where their masks are. Sometimes it truly is just a slip-up, and slip-ups don’t deserve harsh words. 2020 has been the most terrifying and stressful year of my life, and I know this goes for many other people. The best thing we can do if we are within close quarters with people is to wear masks and remind our peers to do the same. It is a modicum of respect that should be practiced by everyone for the safety and wellbeing of peers and their extended family members.