[EDITORIAL] The pandemic is not over just because you say it is over

Wildcat Chronicle Staff


By Wildcat Chronicle Staff

If you are someone who has been waiting for a chance to rip your mask off, you can now. As of February 17, wearing a mask is optional at West Chicago Community High School (and as of February 28, masking is optional in any Illinois public school), but the controversy between the two topics of wearing or not wearing a mask has been an ongoing debate since the start of the mandatory face mask policy in schools. As we reported previously, the guidelines in both the state and local guidelines have changed and prompted a good deal of discussion. The Wildcat Chronicle editorial team firmly maintains that with the ongoing pandemic and new strands of COVID that are being created and spread, masks are more than ever important now to keep students, families and staff safe.

The fight against mask mandates in school began just as soon as the policy was implemented, but became specifically intense at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Parents began attending school board meetings across the state of Illinois to end the mandate. The issue became such a hot topic that parents in a central Illinois school district filed a lawsuit against the schools for forcing their students wear masks.

As reported by 25 News, a news station in Peoria, Illinois, “the lawsuit, filed by the Law Office of William J. Gerber, seeks to remove masks, testing isolation policies, under the legal argument that the state health department does not have the authority to enforce those rules.”

Here at West Chicago Community High School, masks have been mandated since the return of students from remote learning in February 2021. The Illinois mandate has been in place since as early as fall 2021 , and was lifted for a short period over the summer 2021. So, anytime someone was on school property, except over the summer, they were required to wear a mask as per the state of Illinois’ and WCCHS’ policy.

On February 24, principal Dr. Will Dwyer clarified the school’s sudden change in masking mandate.

“It was a matter of we no longer have legal authority to do the things we’re doing. In fact, we’re actually in violation of legal precedent by continuing to require masking,” said Dwyer.

Many students thought it was up to the school administration to make a mask mandate decision, when in reality, it was firmly based on a legal standing, leaving authority out of the school’s hands.

As we mentioned, in West Chicago and surrounding districts, parents have been showing up to school board meetings in demand that the mask mandate be lifted. Parents who are fighting the mask mandate claim that masks are “only controlling us,” according to an article published by AZ Central News.

Students at WEGO: two choosing to wear masks, and one choosing to abstain from wearing a mask. (Photo by Chuck Baumgartner)

On February 22-24, we conducted an anonymous poll of 67 students to determine how students at WEGO feel about the school/state/CDC’s change in guidelines.

One student wrote, “The science shows that most masks don’t prevent COVID, they are not good for your health, and they are not meant to be worn for extended amounts of time.”

But, the fact is masks do help, as we see in the medical profession. Individuals in the medical field have been required to wear masks while engaging in surgery, and doing so has not affected their overall health in the long run.

In an article by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Shane Neilson, MD and PhD candidate, said, “I propose that the surgical mask is a symbol that protects from the perception of risk by offering non protection to the public.” In other words, Neilson argues the mask is there to help one’s conscious feel protected, but it does not actually offer viable protection.

Even the school nurse questioned the effectiveness of masks: Cathy Collins-Clarke said, “I don’t know if masks are stopping Omicron because people are still getting it.”

However, the Wildcat Chronicle’s poll revealed 82.1% of respondents believe masks are an effective aid in stopping the spread of COVID. That said, only 67.2% of responders think masks should be required.

It is important to follow science when it comes to masking, especially in school. Looking towards the future, the Wildcat Chronicle staff believes if we mask up now, there could be a significant decrease in terms of the spread and infection rate of COVID-19 over the next few months.

For the past two years we have been masking, so why not do it a little longer to ensure the safety of everyone? Masking does not just protect you as an individual, but also everyone around you. It is selfish, when put in perspective, to take your mask off now because in doing so, you are not protecting your community.

A mask litters the floor outside the English hallway one week after the mask mandate is lifted. (Photo by Chuck Baumgartner)

Masking does not restrict you from anything in your daily life; in fact, it allows you to do everything you want safely, whether that be attending school in-person, working, playing a sport, etc. It is our strong belief that those who consider themselves “anti-mask” dislike authority, and enjoy picking and choosing their freedoms: which ones are worth fighting for, and which ones are not. The pandemic is not over just because an individual is tired and/or uncomfortable.

We would like individuals who do not want to wear masks anymore to think of the potential harm shedding those masks may cause to others around you. Taking the moment to put a mask on and wear it throughout the day – around other people – could save lives and help stop the spread of COVID. Doing your small part everyday can have tremendous results, and keep everyone as healthy as possible.