Six feet distance, masks on our faces, staying away from large crowds. These were the precautions everyone took to ensure their safety when it came to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic has been around for two years now, and many public school counties have been under a variety of mask mandates until now. Wake County announced on Feb. 18 it would be lifting the mask mandate due to the sudden decline in coronavirus cases and as recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In further implementation, the mask mandates that optional face coverings also apply to the transportation systems at schools. Originally, due to federal regulations, students were required to wear a face-covering while riding on our buses or other school transportation. However, that policy was changed this week, and masking is optional on school transportation as well,” said Stephen Mares, Principal of Athens Drive.
This change in recent norms has raised some concerns with some students due to the close-contact with other peers in a closed setting with little chance of movement within seating arrangements. This is one of the reasons why health experts still recommend wearing a mask.
Though wearing masks is no longer required, wearing a mask is still recommended for indoor spaces and large crowds. Covid cases are at an all-time low, therefore the CDC has taken the big step of making masks optional.
The Covid-19 vaccine also plays a huge role in the safety of going optional in masking. Coronavirus vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) reduce the chances of transmission which allows for more comfort within these new environments.
Mares also stated, “Per DHHS (Carolina Department of Health and Human Services) guidance, masks are recommended in indoor settings for people at high risk for severe disease and who are not up to date on vaccines; and because masks can add a layer of protection for those who want it, we support students and staff who choose to wear a mask.”
Though the majority of people have been vaccinated, we are not at a point of herd immunity at Wake County schools. For this reason and others, many students and staff members still wear their masks.
Personal decisions of wearing, or rather not wearing, a mask have also been a source of conflict at the drive. The debate has caused many different sets of opinions to be expressed by students.
“I will continue to wear my mask, and I am glad that a majority of others wear theirs as well. It does make me feel safer when people wear masks, so I wear mine to make people feel safe around me. I wear it for my safety as well. I like having the option to wear a mask. Instead of it being enforced, I can choose when I wear it, even though I do wear a mask almost all day,” said an anonymous student. On the other hand, the debate about mask-wearing relates to the learning aspect for some students as well.
“Honestly, I’m glad masks are an option. I feel like masks have been a way for teachers and students to be distracted from learning actual content. Forcing someone to wear a mask is a little too far out of most people’s comfort zones, ” said another anonymous student.
Every student has a different set of viewpoints on mask-wearing, which everyone is entitled to have. Such viewpoints are expected to be respected at the Drive.
“Students, staff, families, and visitors who for very valuable reasons will have concerns on all sides of this change, let’s remember to be kind to each other and respect the choices that students, staff members, families, and visitors will make,” said Mares.