We all know masks will never go away. The importance of individual health and stopping the spread of the virus will forever be a priority in larger environments. For that, we have Covid-19 to thank.
As of Monday, April 11, DePaul eased its mask requirements, allowing students to choose whether they feel comfortable enough to have masks off in classroom environments.
But is that really the right decision? Masks have been our safety nets, they have been able to protect us and allow us to feel comfortable while still performing everyday activities in life.
This comes after DePaul initially eased its mask mandate ahead of spring break, with mask friendly areas established everywhere on campus but in classrooms and labs, where it stayed mandatory until Monday.
I’ve felt social pressure as a student to wear a mask. I don’t want to be the singled-out student, being the only one in a class of 15 or less with it off. The opposite goes for a larger classroom that has more than half with their masks off, there I will feel more comfortable taking it off.
Let’s face it, nobody enjoys wearing masks. We can’t hear people half the time, nor can we read facial expressions and it just makes it harder to breathe.
“Right now, I don’t, because we are presenting and it is better to see faces, easier to talk through and breathe.” sophomore Danesh Kumar said.
A larger question can be raised. Is this beneficial for DePaul? Are they keeping their students safe if they don’t know who has tested positive? Per CDC, individuals who tested positive within the last three months and recovered should not get re-tested, as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
How can one trust others around them, that they have not developed symptoms? The cases here in the U.S. have fluctuated heavily, and with asymptotic patients, there is a cause for concern.
Everyone is being placed in a difficult situation, with seasons changing and weather starting to warm up, we want to be out more. Cases tend to ease off in the warmer temperatures, but this is where following Covid-19 restrictions gets ignored and cases once again begin to rise.
“I think the new mask rule was bound to happen, now that other places are lifting it,” junior Kathy Rayyan said. “I wear my mask in class, but if I’m walking around the school or in the commuters lounge, I take it off, it depends on where I’m at I guess.”
If you require students to wear a mask for an hour and twenty minutes in a classroom, I am sure a lot wouldn’t find a problem with that. It allows them to feel safe around the presence of others.
As mentioned by Rayyan, students will take off the mask immediately leaving the classroom, making no difference between the classroom, elevator or anywhere else on campus.
In situations like these, it feels like you are trying to survive at your own risk. Being vaccinated and boosted gives confidence for when you do happen to test positive, but the motive is to stop the spread, and masks are the answer.
College of Communications professor William Baglia expresses his perspective on the eased mandate of the masks, and how he has been assessing his classrooms.
“Teaching my Arts and Letters class, 60 or 75 percent did remove their masks,” Bagila said. “I am paying attention to the comfort of my students.”
With now two years of mandates, guidelines and living with Covid-19, it’s understandable that people want to live life and walk out of their homes as if Covid-19 never happened.
But it seems we cannot catch a break with recurring variants. Once again, an increase in cases is on the rise, which means a chance of all mandates and guidelines making a return.
Professors can make this decision easier for students to decide. Some will give their perspective and let you make that decision, or some will encourage masks to be worn. However, being able to walk into a class without worrying about your decision makes life easier.
“I do want students to feel comfortable,” Baglia said. “My class is a mask friendly place. Staff and faculty have demonstrated their flexibility in responding to this virus and the students have as well.”
DePaul has done a great job in terms of flexibility and giving students freedom to do what they want with their masks, truly making it a mask friendly campus both at the Loop and Lincoln Park.
Masks will be safety nets until we feel viruses like Covid-19, or others won’t pose a threat to our individual health. The importance of individual health and protecting those in large environments will always be a priority.
The only way we get past the fear of Covid-19, and feel safe, is to see cases diminish and have it no longer be a topic of conversation. Keep masks as a requirement, and reassess for next school year.