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Opinion on lifted mask mandate as the university gets rid of requirement at months end

(Photo courtesy of Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Gov. Baker removes his mask to speak during a press conference in April of 2021. 

Qinglong Diep
Connector Staff

Across the United States, many states have announced that they will be removing the mask mandates for school districts. We have all been wearing masks for almost two years and it may be time to remove them.

One question that comes across my mind is this: “Is it the right time to lift the mask mandate?” I do think that the answer is yes and no at the same time. We should still be following the science and be data driven when deciding to remove the mask mandate but proceed with caution.

Health officials have guided us the entire way through this pandemic since it began with protocols being updated as new variants arise from coronavirus and from the data.

Recently, UMass Lowell has announced that it will be removing its mask mandate on February 28 campus-wide, that includes the Tsongas Center and the Inn and Conference Center in an email that was sent out last week to students and staff on Thursday. Students and staff will still be required to wear a face mask on campus shuttles and in the wellness center. Individuals are welcome to wear a face mask if they choose to.

While I am excited for the mask mandate to be removed and I’m pretty sure our campus population is as well, I think that it is a bit too soon to remove the mask mandate at the school because spring break is quickly approaching which is the week of March 6.

When spring break is over, there may be an increase of students and staff testing positive for coronavirus. Ideally, it would make sense to make it optional to wear face masks beginning Monday March 21 to allow the week of March 13 for any positive cases of coronavirus to come in and allow students and staff to quarantine for the right amount of days. This would ensure that the mask mandate would not have to come back a few days after spring break is over which would make students and staff not happy at all.

The Lowell School Committee recently voted on a motion to remove the mask mandate on March 7 for Lowell Public School Districts last week on Wednesday unanimously. This was the right thing to do because Lowell Public School is on their mid winter break this week and resumes school next week on Monday February 28. I agree with the school committee’s decision on this because after looking at their COVID-19 dashboard, cases did spike up in January of this year but did go down a couple of weeks later and that it is possible that when mid winter break is over, there is a possibility of cases going back up but cases will go back down eventually.

In a memo that Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey Riley sent out to school leaders early this month, DESE and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) strongly suggest that unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear their face masks. This makes sense because if you are unvaccinated, you are more likely to get the coronavirus and spread it to others though symptoms are less severe if you are vaccinated according to studies.

However, there is no vaccine mandate for elementary and secondary schools in Massachusetts yet. How will teachers and administrators know which students are vaccinated and who is not vaccinated against the virus? The answer to that is: I have no clue at all and that this is something for superintendents to discuss with their team on how to figure this out.

There is fear amongst the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as some people say something along the lines of “It’s my body, I get to do whatever I want to it”. This is not entirely true at all. If this were to be true, then you would have the option to get vaccinated or not when you were very young.

Health officials said to get vaccinated as this is the best way to protect yourself from getting the coronavirus. I have heard many stories from the media that unvaccinated people are regretting their choice of not not getting vaccinated at all against the coronavirus and are ending up in the hospital beds.

Even if you do not like needles at all, I strongly encourage you to do the right thing, which is to get vaccinated. If you do not want to end up in a hospital bed, get vaccinated.

We must still follow the science and make data driven decisions to update or revise coronavirus protocols even after removing the mask mandate in various places. Officials should not be afraid to implement the mask mandate again if cases do go up in the near future.


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