Last month, the Pandemic Task Force decided to loosen the mask policies, making masks only required in “learning spaces,” chapel/convocation and certain events. This decision made good on the promise that after the campus met the vaccination goal of 90%, masks could disappear. Some may see this as a relief, but for some, the drastic change sparks fear.Mask mandates being lifted makes it feel like the virus is going away, when we are still far from that. As an avid mask lover (for a plethora of reasons besides safety), I believe that masks should still be required in all indoor spaces on campus.
I was fully remote for a year – for my personal health reasons along with my family’s – but any time I stepped out my front door, my mask was securely on and over my nose. Texas, including my hometown of Austin no longer has a mask mandate in place, which feels wrong considering the population of both.
Those who are scared of change may feel the same way I do. I have gotten so used to wearing a mask and following mask etiquette. Plus, masks are a part of my wardrobe now, so it feels wrong that masks are slowly going away.
I feel strange without a mask, and I feel guilty seeing people without their masks — kind of like seeing an Avenger in street clothes.
In the classroom, the loosened restrictions of the mask policy don’t have any effect. This makes sense considering how class sizes are back to “normal” and distanced seating is no longer enforced.
However, the new mask policy is also somewhat unclear. What is considered a learning space? Are learning spaces the buildings as a whole, or just the classrooms? Learning spaces beyond classrooms can be pretty well-populated, so leaving it to someone’s judgment may not be the best bet.
To me, mask wearing is a sign of respect. If someone is wearing a mask indoors, it is common courtesy to put your mask on as well — but how often will people follow mask etiquette? Masks no longer being required feels somewhat disrespectful. Even before the pandemic, I remember wearing a mask when I had the flu or a cold because I did not want people around me to risk getting sick.
I think changing the mask policy happened a bit too soon, despite the COVID-19 numbers slowly decreasing across the state and country, along with the increasing vaccinated population. The easy accessibility of vaccines helps lower COVID-19 numbers and adds a layer of protection, making the virus seem less scary. But just because vaccination helps lessen the effects of the virus does not mean you are unable to contract the virus.
COVID-19 is still just as real and somewhat as lethal as it was a year ago. Vaccines played a role in the steady decrease of cases and deaths, but did not entirely fix the problem.
The original mask policy should still be in place at GC – not only for protection against COVID-19, but also to protect against colds and the flu.