Autumn's Masked Masses
By: Alisha Ahmed and Eva Mandelbaum
Will “face masks” come right between pencils and paper on your back to school shopping list for this coming fall school year? They have become such a crucial part of our health and safety nowadays, but can they be dangerous in some cases at school? Or will they continue to save lives this 2020-2021 school year?
Masks are needed in most places for people’s safety, and they have been helping us through the pandemic. To different people, masks can mean a lot of things, from fashion statement to political statement, to simply a tool to keep safe. What will masks mean to students next school year? Will your mask show your style and become a way to express yourself?
Some may wonder what the point of a mask is if the virus is spread by contact and is not airborne. Even though the Coronavirus is a virus spread by contact, you should still wear a mask for many reasons. If someone coughs and you are not wearing a mask the germs can easily spread to you, however if you are wearing a mask, you can avoid contracting the virus. According to Dr. Luke Padwick in an article published by Healthline, wearing a mask will cut down 95 percent of the breathing that sends the virus from one person to another. It will also prevent the virus from going into your nose or mouth. In New York, it is a law that you have to wear a mask when you go out in public; when you wear a mask, you are staying safe and following the law. If we keep on wearing masks and practicing social isolation, we will defeat COVID-19.
On May 12 Andrew Cuomo posted a tweet that reads, “When you wear a mask you are saying I respect my neighbors. When you wear a mask, you are saying I respect nurses and doctors. When you wear a mask, you are saying I respect other people.” As Governor Andrew Cuomo conveys, not only are masks the barrier between us and the virus, but they are a sign of respect for others. They also give us a sense of stability and confidence when going out into the frightening world.
Despite the importance of wearing a mask, this may differ in the school setting. Masks might become our most used school supply, and our new best friend. On the other hand, this may not be the case for some students. Many students, such as those with asthma or other breathing difficulties, struggle with the mask situation. Similarly, students with special needs such as autism may find wearing masks challenging. This becomes especially tricky with an inclusive environment like White Plains, where we strive to celebrate differences, rather than put a negative focus on them.
Will masks become a divider or a struggle for students? If we do manage to get past these mask-related hurdles, there may still be students who will simply choose not to wear their mask, as either a political or general rule-breaking statement. From Physical Education to lunch, many situations simply are not conductive to mask-wearing. Also, the school often reaches elevated temperatures and masks on top of that can create a dangerous situation for students. According to Edweek, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all school employees to wear cloth face coverings. Also, many school and district leaders are incorporating mask protocols into their reopening plans. Teachers may struggle with doing their job with masks on, but it looks as though they too will have to wear them next school year, along with everyone else. There will be a lot of controversy surrounding forcing students to wear masks next school year. They are important for everyone’s safety, but the school setting complicates things.
When you wear a mask, there is a higher chance of people being more comfortable around you and feeling safe knowing that you are following the correct procedures when you go out in public. A mask can say many things about you: it can say you are staying safe and you want other people around you to be safe as well. Wearing a mask does not have to be boring; you can make your own mask with fun designs. The mask you are wearing can match the clothes you are wearing. You can have multiple masks to go with the outfits you plan to wear. Some might even go as far as to say that masks are the new fashion statement. There are plenty of places to get a mask so there is no excuse for not wearing one.
Masks are the newest trend, but unlike other trends, they are all about safety rather than style. Right? Unbelievably, masks have found their place in the fashion world. Many stores, brands, and companies have hopped onto the masks as a fashion statement trend and have taken mask-wearing to the next level. One Italian brand, Elexa Beachwear, has begun selling trikinis, or three-piece bikinis, complete with a mask made of the same material used to make the bathing suit. Other trendy clothing stores such as American Eagle, Gap, Anthropologie, Madewell, Steve Madden, and many others have added face masks to their inventory. If we end up going back to school in the fall having to wear masks, students might as well use this as an opportunity to do it in style. There are many ways to make your own masks at home, as shown on cdc.org, along with many other websites and YouTube videos. To mix it up, you can use some fun fabrics when making your own masks too. For sustainable, breathable, and fashionable masks, try cotton/reusable masks with patterned and colored fabrics.
These are frustrating times for everyone. Families and friends are not able to see their loved ones as they normally would, and the anxiety of having to go out in public feeling stressed about COVID-19 is constant. What we must remember is that every storm leads to the sun eventually coming back out. Ever since quarantine, people are starting new things -- some are even taking better care of their mental and physical health -- and people have time to relax and be with their families. While it can be irritating not being able to just go out whenever you want, this time will pass eventually. Right now, we must focus on staying safe. So, wear a mask and be optimistic. Let us continue making the best of a challenging situation, one mask at a time.