Behind the masks of Covid-19 policy

According to The Federal Register, on March 13, 2020, former President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the virus had a global effect, some countries have since returned to normalcy due to their low infection rates. In the U.S., however, the virus lingered longer than expected. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an intense debate around having a national face mask mandate. Some believed it was valid due to the circumstances, while others believed it was an infringement on their rights and freedom. We still see this debate, especially in schools, as to whether or not face masks should be required. However, one may argue face masks are ineffective, and, therefore, the requirement is not needed.  

According to Fortune Magazine, cloth face masks are not as effective as KN95 masks. This proves not all coverings are equipped for slowing the spread of COVID-19. FMU required face masks on campus, but they never specified what kind students should wear. If cloth face masks are not significantly effective, especially in comparison to KN95s, why require “face masks” in general? Why have a broad mask mandate when all are not equally effective? One can argue it should be up to the individual as to which covering they choose to wear, but if this is the case, why can’t students choose not to wear a mask? If cloth masks have similar, if not the same, effectiveness as no mask, it should be up to us, the students, if we choose to wear a mask or not. 

FMU recently lifted almost all of the prior COVID-19 restrictions, including the requirement of face masks in classrooms. Since the regulation was lifted, cases at FMU have stayed low. As of March 25, 2022, FMU reported zero cases among faculty and students. At the beginning of the semester, COVID-19 infection rates were high, and at the time, everyone had to wear masks. Now, two months later, masks are no longer required, yet cases are lower than they were during the first half of the semester. Not to mention, last week was spring break, and many students chose to travel. Even after everyone returned to campus, cases are still zero, with no face masks.  

Prior to lifting the mask mandate, some students felt requiring them in classrooms was unnecessary and an infringement on their rights.  

Ainara Eizaguirre is a sophomore art major on the women’s soccer team. A native of Spain, she said the COVID-19 restrictions back home were quite different.  

“Places were still open all night, like usual,” Eizaguirre said. “It was weird coming to the states and having everyone be so strict about masks. Back home, things were closed for the first two months of COVID, and then they just opened again. Everyone just started to go back to their everyday lives.”  

With such a different experience with the pandemic than some American students, Eizaguirre said she is relieved by the lifted restrictions.   

“I’m very happy face masks are not required anymore,” Eizaguirre said. “They are just paper. I do not see the point of wearing them.”  

Since there are currently no COVID-19 cases at FMU, there should not be a reason for the school to reinstate the requirement of face masks. However, if they choose to do so, they should look into exactly what they ask of students and why. If they are going to allow students to walk around campus in cloth masks that do not necessarily slow the spread of coronavirus, students should have the option to remain mask-free.