To mask or not to mask


Grace Foley

An email from OHS principal Brian Brennan sent to Oakville students states that the mask mandate has been lifted until cases rise above 1 percent.

COVID-19 and the surrounding topics have become a major point of contention in political discussions over the past two years, furthering the divide between political parties and becoming a heated debate at family gatherings. Some argue that mask mandates, vaccine mandates and stay-at-home orders are an attack on personal liberty, and undermine the very values this country was built on. Others believe that staying home, wearing a mask and getting fully vaccinated is in the best interest of those around them. Some deny the existence of the global pandemic altogether. 

Wherever your beliefs lie, it is undeniable that cases are on the rise, and a new variant, named Omicron, is running rampant through the community. However, the Mehlville Board of Education made the decision to disband the schools mask mandate and switch to masks recommended. Although a safety net has been built into the decision, ensuring that if 1 percent or more of students/staff contract the virus, masks are still required. 

It may seem like this decision is a good one that shows that our school is overcoming the pandemic and moving forward from COVID, though this isn’t exactly the case. In a school where most can’t seem to mask properly in the first place, many are excited to experience a mask-less school day for the first time in almost two years. That being said, there is more to the issue than a simple desire to take the cloth off of our faces. If we finally get cases under control, what would removing masks accomplish? We’ve been in a back and forth with different mandates in the community for months. It’s hard to keep up with whether masks are required or not. In our community we’ve seen that as soon as mask mandates are lifted, cases spike almost immediately after. There is no sense in getting cases below 1 percent, then immediately letting students face the pandemic with no sort of protection. 

On Jan. 31 2022, it was announced that we have dipped below the 1 percent threshold and masks are now strongly recommended. Many students are jumping at the chance to be maskless at school for the first time in years and few students have made the decision to stay protected. By allowing students to de-mask, it causes them to take mandates less seriously, and when positive cases inevitably rise, students will be even less likely to comply. 

According to the CDC, mask mandates reduce positive cases and deaths around 20 days after implementation. The science behind the masks is sound, so why has it been such a struggle to convince people to wear them? Why has the pushback against masks been so common? In my opinion, the answer can be found by looking no further than fearmongering. Any and every social media app is littered with misinformation about masks, vaccines and COVID-19. And many have fallen victim to believing lies, skewed data and claims with no true backing. Masks work, if worn correctly. 

Being tired of masks is not a bad thing. We all feel that way sometimes, but overall, it would be better for our school community to keep masks on. Parents, teachers and classmates need to hold each other accountable and encourage each other to go the extra mile to keep all of us safe. Our lives are becoming more normal every day, but that doesn’t mean COVID-19 is gone. We all need to work together to stop the spread. The safety of students, teachers and all of our loved ones should always come first. Stay safe, Oakville.