Board editorial: Our “personal choice” is to keep wearing our masks


The Catalyst / Molly Phan

During collaboration, students work with and without their masks because masking is now a “personal choice.”

On March 8, Nurse Bridget Wylie broke the important news to the NDB community that masks would become a “personal choice” on campus, effective March 14.

Because of the decline in positive COVID-19 cases and the lifting of the mandatory mask mandate by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on February 28, the discontinuation of mandatory masks in schools was likely to occur. However, as masks have become a norm in the last couple of years, being in an environment where masks are not enforced can be a rather shocking and uncomfortable transition, especially since the CDC and other healthcare professionals still recommend that masks are worn in indoor settings.

As the pandemic began in March 2020, this news marks two years since the initial nationwide school shutdown. For some, “mask optional” means freedom and normalcy, but for many other community members, being in the presence of those without masks is a huge risk, invoking fear and anxiety.

In order for the entire NDB community to keep safe and comfortable for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year, masks should continue to be worn by everyone on campus.

As you take a look around campus, you will see a significant percentage of students and faculty members that are still wearing their masks, including N95s or multiple masks at once. Some community members are immunocompromised or have other high risk conditions and are afraid that they will be in danger if they contract the virus. Others might have family at home that are at risk of exposure, so have to do what they can to keep themselves safe while at school or work.

For those who need to protect themselves or their loved ones, their mask alone is not enough to stay entirely safe, and being around those who are maskless creates a greater risk.

We also must not forget that just a few months ago was the surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. From December 2021 to February 2022, more than 800,000 cases were reported each day. Even though there are rumors that COVID-19 will become harmless and like the common cold for vaccinated individuals, it would not be surprising for other variants of the virus to come into the picture. Therefore, we must take previous events into consideration and wear our masks so history does not repeat itself.

Since masks are going to remain an option, we know it is important that we honor and respect everyone in their decision to wear or to not wear a mask. In that case though, there should be accommodations for students who are uncomfortable with the new guidelines. The online hybrid model should return as an option, not for students to sleep in and take classes from home, but for those who are truly in danger around people who are maskless. No one should be put at a disadvantage in their educational experience because of the decisions of others.

As ready as we all are to move forward, this pandemic is not over, so we should take on the simple action of continuing to wear masks to ensure a safe environment. In reality, is it so difficult to keep a piece of fabric over our faces for a few more months in order to protect those around us?