Opinion

Mask Mandate Needed for Student Saftey

While the hindrance of wearing a mask may irritate some people, it is saving the lives of others. In order to protect vulnerable students, Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) must keep the mask mandate active and enforced for its students and staff. With a decrease in COVID-19 rates in the county, talk about relaxing the mask requirements for students has been floating around BUSD. This would not only be an irresponsible decision, but also an unkind one. Giving students a peek at normalcy that would likely later be rescinded is ridiculous and unnecessary. 

Masks are not a burden. For most they are simply a slight inconvenience, and considering the number of cases prevented because of them, it’s not worth taking them away. According to the CDC, more than 50 percent of COVID-19 cases have been asymptomatic, meaning that the carrier had no idea that they were sick at all. Imagine walking into a room, knowing that anyone could have this life threatening disease, and still choosing to uncover your face. Not only would you be endangering yourself, but also everyone around you. 

Although vaccines are close to emergency approval for kids ages 5-11, they are not yet available. Lifting the mandate would leave a massive part of Berkeley’s population exposed. Parents have argued that schooling is difficult for their children with masks on, and while it may be difficult, it is also one of very few barriers between vulnerable young people and a disease that has taken approximately 736,000 lives in the United States alone. 

The county has not yet lifted mask restrictions, so why should BUSD be considering it? Alameda County has managed to stay in the “orange tier” of the CDC’s covid case rankings. None of this suggests that taking away any precautions, let alone one as important as mask mandates, is in the near future. 

Other restrictions, however, seem a little unnecessary at this point. Something like the lack of water fountains at Berkeley High School (BHS) is having the opposite effect than intended. Because there’s no viable way to get water if a student forgets to bring some, students have begun sharing water bottles. If BHS wants to loosen COVID-19 restrictions, water fountains should be the first step. 

Another way BHS could improve restrictions is getting rid of “one way” entrances and exits. Causing more foot traffic and trapping students in small confined spaces with one another is not the way to go about COVID-19 safety. 

If BUSD cares about the safety of students and staff, they should take the implications of lifting the mask mandate seriously. While the decrease in cases is promising, it’s not the end of the risks of in-person schooling. As of right now, if the district truly wants to support students and lower restrictions, they should consider options that are less dangerous and more productive.

While the hindrance of a mask may irritate some, it is saving the lives of others. In order to protect vulnerable students, Berkeley Unified School District needs to keep the mask mandate active and enforced for it’s students and staff. With new developments in vaccination accessibility (especially for children under 12) and a general decrease in Covid rates in the county, talk about relaxing the mask requirements for students has been floating about BUSD spaces. This would be not only dangerous and irresponsible, but unkind. Giving students a chance at normalcy that would likely later be rescinded is ridiculous and unnecessary. 

Masks are not a burden. For most they are simply a slight inconvenience, and considering the sheer number of cases prevented every single day because of them, it’s clearly not worth taking them away. According to the CDC more than 50% of cases have been asymptomatic, meaning that they had no idea they were sick at all. Imagine walking into a room, knowing that anyone could have this life threatening disease and still choosing the luxury of uncovering your face. Not only are you endangering yourself, but everyone around you. 

Although vaccines are close to emergency approval for kids ages 5-11, they are not yet available. This leaves a massive part of Berkeley’s population exposed, simply for comfort? It’s just not right. Parents have argued that the schooling experience is difficult for their children with masks on, and while it may be difficult, it is also one of very few barriers between vulnerable young people and a disease that has taken approximately 736,000 lives in the US alone. 

The county has not yet lifted mask restrictions, so why should BUSD be considering it? As of now, 0 counties in the Bay Area have reached the necessary standard for consideration of loosening mask mandates. Alameda county has managed to stay in the “orange tier” of the CDC’s covid case rankings. None of this suggests that taking away any precautions, let alone one as important as mask mandates, is in the near future. 

Other restrictions however, at this point seem a little unnecessary. Something like the lack of water fountains at BHS is actually having the opposite effect than intended. Because there’s no viable way to get water if a student forgets to bring a water bottle or if their teacher has no cups, students have turned to their friends and classmates. All over campus people are sharing water bottles, causing mass panic when one person becomes symptomatic. If Berkeley High wanted to change the way restrictions have been enforced, water fountains should be the first step. 

Another way BHS could change the way it has been going about restrictions is the lack of doors/gates available to walk through. Causing more foot traffic and trapping students in small confined spaces with one another is not the way to go about Covid safety. Getting rid of “one way” entrances and exits would be incredibly useful, and would not be endangering students further. 

If BUSD cares about the safety of students and staff alike, they will take the implications of lifting the mask mandate seriously. While the decrease in rates of illness is promising, it is not the end of the risk that comes along with in person schooling. As the city of Berkeley and Alameda county continue to monitor the situation, this may change. As of right now, if the district truly wants to support students and lower restrictions, they should consider less dangerous and more productive options.

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