Opinion: Is Lifting the Mask Mandate a Good Idea?
By Gaby Maldonado
Westchester is setting aside some of its mask mandates as the county continues to see COVID-19 case rates drop after the Omicron surge. Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting on March 2nd.
The Governor and the New York State Department of Health made this decision based on observations of COVID-19 trends and after consulting with health experts, parents, teachers, and school administrators. With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the decline of cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19, Governor Hochul states, “New Yorkers have stepped up, and we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools.”
However, is lifting the mask mandate from schools truly a good idea?
Now that the mask mandate has been lifted, things are finally going back to normal after so many changes. The sense of normalcy will be good for the students, and teachers after being forced to adapt to difficult circumstances. When the mandate was lifted and some students started taking off their masks, it brought about others to be more confident in taking off their own masks. Getting rid of the mask is allowing students to engage more extensively with one another, and it is helping them connect more now that they can talk and react with each other without hiding their faces.
Lifting the mask mandate was also helpful for teachers because it permitted them to engage with their classes more. It is easier to talk to a class without the mask because teachers can see student’s expressions and reactions when they are participating in class discussions. With the masks, teachers were often looking at blank stares, and now that more students are showing their faces, teachers can truly see how the students are feeling.
Despite all of this, it does not mean the pandemic is over. Getting rid of the masks at school could still be a significant risk. Many people are still choosing to wear a mask at school.
Some people have family members who are at a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus and want to be on the safe side when spending most of their day in a crowded building. Many families have older members who have higher chances of getting seriously sick with COVID-19. Lifting the mask mandate for students and teachers to be around large groups of people can only increase the possibility of causing others to get sick. We never know if a new variant is going to arise in our community.
In addition, many people have gotten so used to wearing a mask that they feel uncomfortable taking it off. Many have also gone through physical changes throughout the past few months, and the masks help them feel safe and protected from anxiety and judgment.
It is good that people get the option to keep or take off their mask. It is a preference, and whatever you choose to do is simply fine.