Mask Mandate Lifting


Camilla Fiordaliso

Almost exactly two years ago, the world shut down. The fastest-paced city in the world was hit by something faster: CoronaVirus. The public school system in New York City educates 1,094,138 students and employs 75,000 teachers citywide, so shutting down schools was a massive step to take. As of September 2021, after a long year of online schooling and asynchronous learning, kids went back to school with certain covid guidelines. Though certain restrictions varied from school to school, the one mandate that was present citywide, was mask requirements. Governor Kathy Hochul announced Sunday afternoon that statewide mask requirements in schools would be lifted and no longer required. However, the governor’s announcement leaves the decision concerning NYC public schools up to the mayor Eric Adams, who has said he plans to lift these restrictions in NYC public schools on March 7th if there are no “unforeseen spikes” in coronavirus cases after the mid-winter recess. The lifting of masks mandates raises many questions concerning the safety of educators and students in public schools; does this mean the pandemic is over? 

I asked freshman Rose Fiordaliso whether she thought that the mandate lifting was more positive or negative overall and she told me that even though there are some concerns over the safety of being in school maskless, “socially, it is positive since students have had to wear masks in school for a year now.” 

Another concern raised is the confidence students had in not wearing masks and what that would feel like. As a teenager, insecurities flood your everyday life regardless of whether you’re wearing a mask or not, so removing something that’s been such a constant in students’ social lives the past couple of years is scary. Rose agreed with me saying, “people are definitely going to feel insecure about not wearing a mask.” But, beyond the social impact and the potential positives of going maskless in schools, is our overall safety at risk? The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), found in a recent study that face masks were 79% effective in preventing transmission. So, even though the number of cases may be lower, the risk is still present in going maskless in indoor facilities. It will most likely be up to the individual on whether or not they want to wear a mask, so it’s important that people make decisions they are comfortable with. It is up to us as a school community to continue being responsible community members, but they may look different for different people.