Saga Soundoff: Will you still wear your Mask?

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Editor’s Note: These submissions were collected Feb. 23. Since then, the school district has officially dropped the mask mandate. Masks are still strongly recommended.

Yes:

JILLIAN SYLVESTER

Trust me, I dislike wearing masks as much as the next person. It is especially annoying to wear them while working out. However, I will be wearing my mask even without a mandate.

Wearing masks is less about protecting yourself than protecting other people from you. The use of “my body, my choice” does not work in this context because not wearing a mask is more likely to harm others than help you. Imagine I had hand, foot, and mouth disease and was walking around the school barefoot. I would hope you would be eager to wear shoes. The difference between hand, foot, and mouth and COVID-19 is that it is much less likely to kill or have long lasting effects. It also does not require the infected to stay home for almost a week.

Those periods of time staying home can be detrimental to some families’ incomes or health. While a COVID-19 infection may not be bad for you if you’re healthy, you do not know who is at risk or lives with high risk individuals.

Although it is not your responsibility to know those circumstances, it is your responsibility to expect that a population of the school does have those worries surrounding COVID-19.

On a personal note, if I get my family sick, my dad’s small business, where both of my parents work, would have to close. In addition to having no income for how long we need to be in quarantine, I have a 92-year-old grandma who depends on us to get her groceries and medication. If I got my grandmother sick, I would be endlessly guilty. If I infected other people’s loved ones, I would be endlessly guilty. To avoid infecting others, I will take every precaution I can, because I do not want that weight on my shoulders. Maybe it is selfish to avoid guilt, but I find it more selfish to not care.

Furthermore, CDC data during the lockdown in 2020 showed a high increase in adolescent suicide. Why would we risk isolation again? Sure, COVID-19 rates are going down, but risking all our progress in reducing infection rates isn’t worth it.

I will be wearing a mask if the mandate is lifted because even if the effect is small, I will do everything I can to protect other people who would be affected as much or worse than my family would be affected. As a society, it is our responsibility to expect that people’s incomes, family, and much more will be on the line if they get sick. COVID-19 is not a little cold. It can ruin lives. Take responsibility, East Lyme. Care about the circumstances of people around you, and wear your mask.

No:

RILEY WALSH

If choosing whether or not to wear a mask was merely based on your own best interest, then the decision for students would be simple. But it is much deeper than that.

Elderly, obese, or immunodeficient people can still be affected by COVID-19. With this in mind, students should decide whether or not to wear a mask based on this question: is the masking of students more beneficial or detrimental to our community?

I won’t proclaim a definitive “right side,” but I’ll attempt to show why I’ll be choosing not to wear a mask.

The CDC recommends that when community transmission rates of COVID-19 are below a certain threshold and when hospitals are not overwhelmed, masking can be relaxed. The daily positivity rate is 2.58 percent as of Feb. 28 compared to 25 percent during the peak of the Omicron surge.

Hospitals are not overwhelmed, and the vaccination rates are high. That’s why, in my opinion, the mandating of masks is not absolutely necessary, and I feel that there are more detriments than benefits.

The first detriment is declining mental health. The best part of life is the people around you, and this crucial social interaction has been heavily affected by masks. Social isolation, uncertainty, stress, and fear have plagued the lives of teens. According to the CDC, teenage emergency room visits for suicide attempts increased 50 percent in females and near 4 percent in males.

The second detriment masks bring to our schools is over politicization. “Maskless”people shame those who are “masked” for their fear, and masked shame maskless for their lack of fear. Our school is constantly tense. There’s more hate, shaming, and disdain from classmate to classmate. When you are face to face with someone, the hate and shaming ceases, you’re just humans.

Inconsistency causes student disdain for administrators. How does it make sense to wear masks for the entire day then eat face to face at lunch? Many times, those in power arbitrarily determine where COVID-19 exists, so when a student is reprimanded, they feel like it’s done to them intentionally. Teachers and students have never been so disconnected.

It’s imperative that we respect each other’s decisions. No one is morally superior for choosing either option, and no one should be shamed- especially if one deeply contemplates which option makes the most sense for their community.