Since the indoor mask mandate started in June of 2020, masks have become a required accessory for everyone entering public buildings and businesses. It became normal to know only half of someone’s face.
The mask mandate sparked controversy when it was first announced. So when state officials announced the lifting of the mask mandate on March 12, this big change also left students in our schools with mixed feelings.
Some, like Caleb Ramirez, 17, a senior at Eastlake High School, felt that it is a “step towards moving forward as a society.”
Others, such as Shriya Sundar, 15, a Skyline High School sophomore, “feel that it’s unsafe and a bit irresponsible.”
It is anyone’s guess how many students will still keep their mask on once the mandate ends.
“I feel like it’s going to be a 50/50 thing,” said Ramirez.
He knows people who “think it’s long overdue” as well as others who think “we really need to keep them on,” and the two sides seem roughly split down the middle.
Other students that spoke with the Sammamish Independent echoed similar thoughts. Some have witnessed their fellow students not even bothering to wear masks in a way that effectively blocks the virus.
“The people who don’t want to wear their masks already don’t wear them properly…It literally hangs below their chin,” said 15-year-old Saanvi Gupta, a Skyline sophomore.
Students also had mixed reactions toward the date for lifting the mandate being moved up from March 21 to March 12. Even though the Washington state Department of Health justified the move due to a decrease in cases, some students are still feeling anxious about taking the masks off too soon.
“It makes me feel like they are just doing it to get it over with and that scares me,” Skyline sophomore Anjali Alwar, 16, said.
Ria Gersappe, 15, an Eastlake sophomore, believes it would have been better if the state kept the date at March 21. She wished that Governor Jay Inslee had waited “just a few more months, maybe till May or June,” to lift the mandate. This is when students head out for summer vacation, so it would reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within a packed school building.
The students who felt negatively about the mandate being lifted generally had a concern about individuals who may be at higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection.
“It’s not like everyone here is abnormally healthy…my parents are both diabetic,” Visakha Mukkamala, 15, a Skyline sophomore, said.
Eastlake student Caleb Ramirez recognizes that people have developed different levels of comfort with masks. While he might want to remove his mask in classroom settings, “If I was one-on-one with someone who didn’t feel comfortable with the other person having their mask off, I would keep it on out of respect,” he said.
Some students are girding for the possibility that the indoor mask mandate could come back.
“There’s probably going to be another variant or something,” Mukkamala, the Skyline student, said.