Is getting rid of the mask mandate the right decision?
February 16, 2022
Mayor Simmons and the Board of Education decided on Tuesday, February 15 to lift the mask mandate across Stamford Public Schools. While health officials advise that students continue to wear their masks, the decision is ultimately up to them. Two staff writers have shared their opinion regarding this controversial decision.
Why we Should Keep our Masks on
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently announced that the decision to enforce the mask mandate is now up to individual school districts in Connecticut. The Stamford Board of Education has decided to lift the mask mandate starting on March 15. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, masks will be eliminated in schools. As per usual, this announcement surrounding masks has sparked controversy and disagreement. The question is, should we still be required to wear masks in school? In my opinion, yes. Although COVID rates have lowered substantially, that does not mean the virus is dead.
COVID has spiked numerous times, so how can we be so sure it won’t happen again? With no masks, the transmission rate for COVID will increase rapidly and spikes in the virus can easily reoccur. On top of that, classrooms are not properly socially distanced whatsoever. Desks are no more than 2 feet apart, putting students at an even higher risk.
In addition, many students are still not vaccinated. Whether by choice, or by force, those who are unvaccinated are at a higher risk. Recent state data says that “For the week beginning January 16, 2022, unvaccinated persons had a 3.1 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated persons. For the week beginning January 16, 2022, unvaccinated persons had a 12.9 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated persons.” As of Monday, the vaccination rate for children under 11 is still less than 50 percent, so we still have to be wary and protect the younger children.
Last April, when Stamford High made the switch from hybrid to full capacity in school, COVID spiked tremendously. As we can see from the graph*, when the school was at full capacity with masks cases were increasing, so why would we take away the masks and risk the repetition of a peak? I believe we should continue to wear masks to help keep the students, staff, family members, and citizens of our community safe.
*Graph from BBC- Shows spike in COVID in April of 2021
Why SPS Made the Right Decision to Lift the Mask Mandate
Governor Ned Lamont announced that he will end the statewide mask mandate in schools and childcare on February 28, 2022. This means that Mayor Simmons and the Board of Education can make the call on masks across the district. They have decided to lift the mask mandate starting March 15. I believe Stamford Public Schools’ decision to lift the mask mandate was the right call.
According to the CDC, the severity of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 disease has lessened. However, this strain spreads very easily and can even sicken vaccinated people, though vaccination would lessen the intensity of the symptoms. The virus is unpredictable in severity such that some people don’t show any symptoms while others are hospitalized. Regardless of vaccination status, anyone can catch the virus. These factors almost make the mask wearing unnecessary. We are now at a point where most people who are going to get vaccinated have already gotten it. It is a general consensus that we aren’t going to wear masks forever, so if we are going to take them off, now is a great time.
On another note, the severity of the disease is currently much lower, similar to influenza or even less than that. We never wore a mask for the flu, so we shouldn’t have to now. We do not have to go into this blindly. The UK lifted almost every COVID-19 restriction including masks in schools. Their reasoning is that Omicron cases have reached their peak, meaning everyone has already gotten the disease. According to the JHU CSSE, the number of cases in the UK has gradually shrunk since the peak. This proves that lifting mask mandates in schools will be fine.
My final point, while it may sound trivial, is actually the most important reason of all to many students: wearing masks in school kind of sucks. They can be distracting and cumbersome, which would affect the learning experience. Especially for elementary school students who have a hard time concentrating in general. Also, it would be nice to see everyone’s faces again. It is important that young children learn facial expressions and how they correlate with emotions. Not recognizing these facial expressions will lead to social decline. Social difficulties are one of the saddest things to see, in my opinion. For these reasons I believe that if masks aren’t necessary, then taking them off in schools will be fine.