Unmasking student disregard for COVID protocols 

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Alex Nagin, Contributing Writer

Do any of us truly believe that the library staff enjoys constantly reminding us to wear our masks? Do we really want to come across to the adults in our community as people who have decided that the rules do not apply to us? Ask yourself this: what kind of message does it send that we have such a profound inability to respect the school’s rules? 

Deciding not to wear your mask in the library, or any other indoor space on campus, is more of a statement than most of us may think. I’m not talking about those who are having a quick snack, or people who need to make way for a tissue to blow their noses. I’m referring to extended under the nose, below the lip, and sometimes even over the eyes (yes I have actually seen this) mask violations that I have continually noticed at our school. 

Sometimes it’s a lengthy maskless debate in the senior lounge or a prolonged maskless discussion after a sip of coffee. Other times, a group hanging out in one of the library study rooms without any face coverings whatsoever. 

Following mask guidelines is quite literally one of the simplest things you can do to show respect for all the work the school has done for us to remain in person and on campus. The Flik staff and the librarians are friendly faces throughout campus and actively work to make our community a more enjoyable place. Intentionally resisting policies instilled to protect our wellbeing reflects really, really poorly on all of us. We already disrespect these adults through the absurd amount of trash we leave everywhere — we shouldn’t have to add refusing to wear our masks to our ignorant tendencies. 

Moreover, this problem goes beyond not following the rules. Last week in the library, I witnessed a new “game” some students decided to play. The rules were straightforward: snatch someone else’s mask and run away. In turn, the person whose mask was stolen would chase the snatcher until they retrieved their face covering. I could make a laundry list of ways this nonsensical “game” is problematic. But the most crucial lesson we must learn from this act is clear. 

Safety is not a game. 

The significance of this infraction is deeper than openly ignoring the guidelines the school has put in place for us. It’s one thing to decide you won’t wear your mask when indoors, but this goes beyond a simple inability to follow protocol. We are making a mockery out of safety. 

Of course, we don’t always agree with every rule that the administration implements —  many of us were frustrated way back in the “no phones in the hallway” era. But our school’s indoor mask policy is something of consequence. COVID-19 is still at large. We can’t decide not to adapt to the Omicron variant and rising cases because we are tired of it. 

We all have our own risk analysis when it comes to COVID-19, and that’s okay. When we are not on campus, we take responsibility for whether or not we feel it’s appropriate to wear masks and avoid crowds. We are coming off a period of a few months where COVID was under control in New York City and large indoor gatherings for fully vaccinated people were deemed acceptable.

Think about it this way: life in the era of COVID is fundamentally about balance. No one should be shamed for traveling, hanging out with a few friends indoors when not at school or going out to dinner. These are social experiences that the vaccine has allowed us to have with lowered risk. But low risk isn’t no risk. For this reason, we need to think critically about why our school even asks us to wear masks in the first place. It’s about the “what-if’s”. Wearing a mask does not only display your respect for our community — it also serves as an acknowledgment that COVID-19 safety rests on this balanced foundation. While the school is not monitoring us when we are not at school, when we are on campus, we should be willing to wear masks as a product of our care for our community. 

It’s not hard to be kind, it’s not hard to be decent, and it’s not hard — at all — to wear a mask. We are all capable, socially adept students. You should want to work just as hard for the health of your community as you do for that A on your math test. Wearing your mask for the limited time you are indoors at school? Easy A.