March 4, 2022 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton | Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock

Almost two years into the pandemic, I’m accustomed to reading people’s eyes. Facial cues were a thing of the past, as in classrooms, meetings, and many day-to-day activities, most people were wearing masks. However, will CC’s shift in mask policy this week restore a sense of normalcy?

In an email sent to the community last Friday, the college clearly stated its intention to move towards a mask optional approach. The email cited high vaccination rates within the community as a precaution that eliminates some of the risks of COVID-19 transmission when not wearing a mask. This past Tuesday, March 1, marked the beginning of the school’s mask optional policy.

While I share my peers’ excitement for returning to a world where I can see people’s faces and not have to think about grabbing a mask every time I leave my dorm, I also wonder if this decision comes too soon.

After all, we still spend a great deal of time inside, where the risk of transmission is higher than when outdoors. And with spring break on the horizon, it seems almost inevitable that at least a handful of cases will crop up when students return to campus.

Despite these hesitations, though, I think this shift in policy is a positive one.

As a community, we are taking many precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From testing a percentage of students weekly to the vaccination requirement, we are already in a better place for mitigation than when the pandemic first began.

I have gone back and forth with my feelings about a mask optional policy, but for me, it came down to the dining situation. When I was sitting at brunch this past weekend, I was suddenly acutely aware of how many mask-less people were sitting in the room. Indoor dining at Rastall is certainly more convenient than takeout boxes, but it does not make a ton of sense to me with the mask policy still in place — I would not be shocked if someone got COVID-19 from eating in Rastall.

With this in mind, I think the school’s decision to move toward a mask optional approach makes sense. I feel better about going to class with the same 25 people every day and not wearing a mask than spending an hour in the dining hall mask-less with hundreds of my peers.

It is also important to note that a policy change would not mean students or faculty cannot continue wearing masks as an additional layer of protection, it would just alter the requirement for everyone to do so.

At the end of the day, I think masks should be a personal choice, especially if the school is allowing us to eat indoors. We have reached a point in the pandemic where if healthy, vaccinated, twenty-somethings catch COVID-19, it is unlikely they will face severe effects from it.

I think it is well past time that we stop viewing COVID-19 as a deterrent to everyday life and instead adjust to a life where COVID-19 is similar to the common cold.

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