People should continue to wear masks in school until COVID-19 is under control

Addy Vargo

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Do you wear a mask during instructional hours?

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Take a gander down the halls. The students walking down them wear disposable masks, blue and pink alike, or cloth ones, be it in black or colorful designs. The Health Department’s mask mandate expired on Jan. second, but a Board of Education meeting in August determined that the district’s mandate would last. 

A second Board of Education meeting on February seventh determined that masks would no longer be required, only recommended. 

Until the disease is negligible, we should be using whatever preventative measures we have to their full potential.  

Until the ICUs are back to their regularly scheduled program of seeing organ transplant, major trauma, and respiratory failure patients rather than an overwhelming amount of people with COVID, if any protective measure can be taken, they ought to be. 

Until the commercials begging people to get vaccinated don’t echo on the screens of gas pumps, wear your mask. 

“Whenever we reach seven consecutive days of moderate to low levels, then we would switch to optional mask-wearing,” said principal Tracy Wilson. “We’ve never come close to that.”

We should be more focused on getting rid of COVID, at least for the sake of those dying, than catering to people’s personal beliefs. 

Unless you’re a teenage superhero, face coverings are hardly your friend. As COVID-19 does its best to teach the Greek alphabet, the effectiveness of preventative measures comes into question. 

For the Grand Haven district, that means the masks haunting the halls might not be so spooky. Sure, bearing witness to your own bad breath for several hours on end might go beyond inconvenience, but when the alternative is a relative in the ICU, it becomes bearable. 

“I think there’s also a big argument: is the mask protecting me or is the mask protecting you?” Wilson said. 

Those manning the ICU hardly care who infected who, their reality is made of temporary units and not as many beds as there are patients. A study by Harvard Medicine and Yale, published in Sept. 2021 proved that surgical masks, if worn correctly, reduce the spread of COVID and are an effective alternative to getting vaccinated. 

With the spread comes the inevitable despair of the loss of learning, because, let’s be real, learning from home while the class still trucks on in-person sucks. The catch-up once you’re allowed to return is terrible. Without the mask mandate, the required quarantining time doubles, regardless of vaccination status. A later wake-up and unlimited bathroom breaks aren’t worth it. 

“If we didn’t have a mask mandate, and it was an optional mask selection, then… more staff and more students would be out of school for more days,” said Wilson before the Board’s decision. 

With the staffing shortage only getting worse and an ever-increasing amount of strain it puts on the cleaning crew, students, administration, and what staff can be here, the absences suggested by the lack of a mask mandate are hardly tolerable. 

As reported by the CDC, outbreaks in K-12 public schools in Arizona during a surge of the Delta variant were three and a half times less likely in schools with mask mandates. 

Preventative measures are not fun. They were never meant to be. Their purpose is to end the pandemic, to open up public places, get people outside and clear out ICUs. They’re meant to be the end of the line.