Making Masks a Choice in Schools is a Victory


Dheeksha Bhima Reddy

With California’s school mask mandate lifted on March 12, students are now given the freedom to not wear a mask if they choose so. With Omicron variant cases down, Californians should celebrate the fact that the state is moving closer to life before the pandemic.

With all fifty U.S. states except Hawaii lifting school mask mandates, students are finally given the choice whether or not to wear a mask after Portola High ended its mandate on March 12.

Given the fact that Omicron variant cases are significantly down and around two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, there is no need to mandate masks anymore.

“As a physician, I’m well aware that medical knowledge is constantly changing,” general internist Jennifer Knips said in a Times op-ed. “As our understanding grows, our practice changes. This should be a time to peel back layers of mitigation that we now know to be ineffective.”

Despite Knips’ argument, evidence from the CDC has shown that mandating masks protects those who are immunocompromised and those under 5 years of age, who are still ineligible to get vaccinated. These factors have led many students and staff to continue to wear masks in school, in an effort to try and protect themselves and their loved ones at home. 

Furthermore, the CDPH said on March 11 that masks are “strongly recommended” indoors and at school in its updated guidelines, indicating that the threat of COVID-19 is still prevalent. 

“I want [students] to keep it on. I do, personally,” parent Claudia Angulo said to KABC. “Why? Because it’s still out there, the virus, just to be safe.”

However, detractors have to understand that falling ill with influenza or the common cold and cough – which, according to Johns Hopkins University, is less transmissible than COVID-19 – was considered something that people regularly dealt with before the pandemic.

Students, who have had to wear masks in school since September 2020, argue that it is right to move on from strict COVID-19 regulations and embrace the pandemic’s shift to an endemic phase. 

“At some point, everyone’s gonna get COVID because it’s going to be the new normal,” senior Tiffany Park said. “If you’re sick, stay home, just like what we did prior to COVID.”

It is also time to stop shaming people who choose to not wear a mask now that the mandate is lifted. With California making masks optional, it is rude to judge or bully someone for making a decision entirely within the frame of the law.

In 2020 and 2021, it made sense to wear masks as there was much uncertainty about the virus, and the United States was experiencing several surges in the summer and winter months. Now, there is a lot of data on the CDC’s website that shows more about how the virus spreads, how contagious it is and how effective vaccines and booster shots are. Extra cleaning measures, such as sanitation and mask wearing, are no longer required because of the availability of life saving vaccines for those 5 years and above. 

Even though COVID-19 is still a pandemic, and it is possible for cases to rise again, optional masks in schools are giving students the freedom to choose what is best for them. By removing masks in schools at this time, the United States moves forward with its plan to one day return to a pre-COVID-19 life.