To Mask or Not to Mask? That is the Question…

On Wednesday, I walked to school with my sister and two of my friends as we have most every day these past two years. The five minutes it takes us to walk to school were normal and uneventful as usual: cars honking at each other, underclassmen scurrying into the building, upperclassmen casually strolling into the building – it seemed like just another day. However, something was different – the security guards had faces and some of the administrators revealed faces I recognized from my first year and a half of high school before COVID put the world on lockdown. 

My sister, my friends, and I entered the building as usual, and we all put our masks on as usual. But that’s just our choice. There seems to be no right, no wrong. From the beginning of the pandemic, people didn’t know what rules to respect and what they should or shouldn’t do. There was a mess of voices telling people to buy masks then not to buy masks because the healthcare workers on the frontlines were in desperate need of them. People rode their bikes more than ever, newfound time was spent being around the same people day after day confined within the same walls of the same house. 

But now that the pandemic appears to be receding, new hope has begun to spring up all around the country. That’s why masks have become optional for New York State – the new guidelines by the CDC say that every region will have to have a certain number of cases to be required to wear masks again. Thankfully, according to the CDC website, Nassau county is low-risk as is NYC.

For the first time in the two years I’ve had her, I’ve been able to see my English Teacher’s face. It feels like the first day of school again but in March. Seeing people’s faces again is like meeting them for the first time. I’ve heard these kids’ voices in my classes for years, seeing only their eyes, but now I finally get to see their faces. For my teachers as well, it was strange to come back to a school I had once known filled with familiar faces only to be covered and masked for protection once school days became normal again towards the end of the 2020-’21 school year. Now, it’s even stranger seeing them without a mask. However, this will most certainly be the norm since Governor Hochul has lifted the mask mandate for what seems like the foreseeable future. 

The last time students and staff could shed their masks (for a brief day over a month ago), it seemed wrong. It seemed hurried and forced. Now, roughly a month later, it seems like the country has seen some encouraging data, telling people not to be as afraid as we were around this time two years ago. Back in January, with the dramatic court case between the New York Supreme Court and the Governor, there were kids who ridiculed others for their decision whether to wear a mask or not. It made no sense then, and it surely won’t be tolerated this time around. Now, though, the lifting of the mask mandate seems more promising.

Here at OHS, students and staff may have differing views about the end of the mask date, but everyone seems to agree that wearing a mask is a personal choice that should be respected. OHS student Steven Johns remarked “It doesn’t really affect me. I think it’s up to personal preference.” Student Cate Donato, who is more apprehensive, said, “I am still not comfortable with everyone not wearing masks just yet. However, the weather is getting warmer, and it’s a step towards normalcy.” This kind of mindset was what prompted the governor to make such an important decision to make masks optional for all students across the state of New York.  

Mrs. Hennessy, OHS English Teacher, seems quite comfortable with the new masking rules. She commented that, “As long as everyone feels comfortable doing what is right for them, that’s what’s most important right now.” In addition, Mrs. Hennessy said about her own decision regarding wearing a mask: “I’m going to take it day by day.” With the mandate being lifted this week, it is natural for some people to be somewhat hesitant, but it is also important for every individual to do what is best for them. 

As a senior, I, along with many of my fellow peers of the class of 2022, are hoping that we can return to normalcy for the rest of the semester. As long as numbers stay low, we can have a normal Graduation, Prom, and Dawn Delirium. Hopefully, masks can stay optional so that the future can be filled with unmasked faces. 

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