By Kaitlyn Bell
Almost exactly two years ago, on March 11, 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic and a new reality filled with masks, vaccines and mandates was instated. Many have expressed their opinions throughout the entirety of the pandemic, whether it be about COVID itself or the mandates.
During the winter break, on February 27, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the state mandate requiring masks in schools would be lifted on Wednesday, March 2. She referred to a recent CDC update that stated most people don’t need to wear a mask indoors unless there is another surge or a high level of disease.
According to NBC New York, the Biden administration has changed their strategies and are looking to contain severe illness rather than infection. These changes in the government's approach have left many with strong reactions. Some are relieved to finally feel a sense of normalcy and are happy with the new updates, while others feel these changes are abrupt and are not quite comfortable with them yet.
Artwork by Lindsay Kim
With the option of being maskless, there is a mix of those that do and don't in the student body.
Many students and staff members have opinions regarding the change in mask mandates.
“I’m just happy that we can finally go back to being somewhat normal,” sophomore Nicoletta Lorusso said.
“I think everybody has the right to do what they think is right for themselves, for their well being. I think whatever a person's choice is, everyone should respect that,” Spanish teacher Ms. Hungria said.
“I’m personally not really fine with these new regulations of the masks, but understand that everyone has the right to do what they want. A main concern I really have is if cases will spread easier due to this and cause a whole situation no one needs. The best I can hope for is that those who don’t want to not wear one are aware of what they’re doing and being aware of others,” senior Katie Alvarenga said.
“It is a little too early to lift the mask mandate since there are still many variants, and we don’t know what could happen as it could spike again. However, I do understand many people want to return to normal, so people should be able to not wear their mask as they please if they are vaccinated. We should still be aware and stay safe for our own health and others who may be immunocompromised,” senior Jennifer Lau said.
“It’s everyone's preference. Whatever everyone feels most comfortable with regarding their health and well-being,” health and gym teacher Mr. Robins said.
“Although I will still continue wearing a mask to school, I think it's great that the school is finally giving students the choice to wear a mask or not by lifting the mandate. It's a much needed sign that we're going back to normal after the last two chaotic years of the pandemic,” senior Laurence Lai said.
“As long as people are vaccinated and boosted, the lifting of the mandate shows a new era after the pandemic,” senior Ingrid Chu said.
“While I'm personally going to remain wearing a mask even after the lifting of mandates, I think it's nice that students are given the option to choose whether to wear their mask or not as COVID cases drop. After two years of mask wearing, I think lots of students are looking for a return back to normalcy and see freedom of choice in mask-wearing as the step toward that,” senior Christopher Liu said.
“I am glad to see the mask mandate dropped after almost two years. As much as the masks served to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the masks also hindered our ability to read facial expressions, smiles, and see an entire face. But we must be willing to listen to the science and realize that masks may be needed again. The mask should not be a symbol of a political party, but rather a symbol of keeping our school safe,” assistant principal Ms. DeGennaro said.
Since New York State schools have been a place where wearing masks have been enforced, even while other states schools dropped their mandates, this new change is a surprise to many. But to keep all New Yorkers in the loop, the New York State government is continuing to inform on the mask policies as they change.
“We are evaluating the CDC's new guidance, and we will update New Yorkers on potential changes as we work through the details and coordinate with all stakeholders in our school communities across our state,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement regarding the new CDC guidelines.
While there are no further updates as of now, it has been stated that there may be further changes or revisions to the mandate in New York City, as well as the state as a whole.