Lily Feather, Staff Writer

One of my family members is also at-risk and had a health scare last year. I love her dearly and hate to choose between staying away or putting her in danger. It’s hard to visit her with a clear conscience when I know I have been around a large number of unmasked classmates.

Although everyone agrees that the masks need to come off at some point, choosing the most appropriate time to lift the mask policy matters. Students are eager to travel and hold family gatherings during the holidays, so ending the mask policy now seems rushed. A majority of now-unmasked students returned to school after Thanksgiving trips, which could have caused a surge of Covid at SJS.

Recently, South Africa reported cases of the Omicron variant. The variant has already spread to several other countries including Belgium, the U.K. and the U.S. Early observations show Omicron to be more transmissible than Delta and more likely to infect people who are already vaccinated. 

Although we trust vaccines, we know they are not 100% effective. Because new variants keep emerging, it is time to stop using our vaccinated status as a way to dismiss COVID concerns. A better time to reverse the mask mandate would be in the early spring, when the cold winter months are over, and we know more about the Omicron variant.

Wearing a mask is simple and effective. We have so many more freedoms this year, and it would be a shame if we were to lose them just because people choose not to wear a mask.

The number of mask-wearing students has dropped dramatically and steadily since the mask mandate was lifted on Nov. 15. When so many students are unmasked, it is easy to succumb to peer pressure.

Before, when the mask mandate was still in effect, many students said that they would wait to see what the majority was doing before deciding whether or not to wear a mask. The number of people wearing masks will trickle to almost none if self-consciousness supersedes safety.

Besides, there has been a silver lining to mask-wearing beyond protecting us from Covid and the flu: we have been shielded from some of the most awkward side effects of puberty, including breakouts and braces.

I empathize with students who want to see the full facial expressions of their friends and teachers — I miss those moments of connection, too. But this loss does not justify the end of the mask policy.

Given the choice of going unmasked or protecting the safety and health of our at-risk relatives, we will always choose safety and health over the illusion of invulnerability.

Wearing a mask for a few more months will not cause any harm, but not wearing a mask in the face of this winter very well might. We learned it in kindergarten, and it’s still true: safety comes first.