Mindful (Un)Masking

Statesman staffers analyze mask-optional decision, urges community to promote compassion


Walking through the hallways of Stevenson, an unfamiliar scene plays out. Some students remain masked while others choose to take them off. This major shift follows about six months of mandatory masking during the 2021-2022 school year. While this significant change may cause tension between friends and classmates, this doesn’t have to be the case. 

The change follows a ruling made on Feb. 4, 2022 by a judge in Sangamon County, Illinois who placed a temporary restraining order on Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 executive order issued on Sep. 17, 2021. By ruling in favor of the plaintiff’s side in the case, the emergency rules created by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) were challenged. Then, on Feb. 17, the 4th District Appellate Court of Illinois dismissed an appeal made by Governor J.B Pritzker. 

As of Feb. 18, the introduction of optional masking has brought about questioning regarding the timeliness of Stevenson’s decision, as well as the necessity of wearing masks on campus. Even though the choice of wearing a mask or not has been given to students and staff members, Statesman encourages the Stevenson community to continue wearing masks to ensure safety schoolwide. 

Already, research has proven that the usage of masks is efficient in reducing the transmission of COVID-19. For example, a study conducted between Jul. and Sep. 2021, when Delta was the most transmitted variant, found that increases in pediatric COVD-19 case rates during the start of the school year were smaller in U.S. counties with school mask requirements than in those without school mask requirements. 

The results reported that when school began, the increase in COVID-19 cases for schools with mask mandates was 18.53 cases per 100,000 per day lower than the average change for counties without school mask requirements. The average increase for schools without mask requirements was 34.85 per 100,000 per day.

The usage of masks has proved to be efficient even in the Stevenson community where rates of transmission are exceptionally low considering the large population of students. Therefore, Statesman believes that the majority of the student body must not only take their own health into account, but the wellbeing of those around them. 

However, above all, Statesman encourages students to be compassionate and respectful toward others, regardless of their decision to wear a mask or not. While it won’t always be easy, it can be done. This might mean respectfully asking others questions to understand their views and reflecting on one’s own views. It might also include adjusting to the needs of others to be more compassionate. 

Ultimately, in order to promote unity within the Stevenson community, students must actively work to understand one another. Although there will be differences in personal preferences, members of the community should consider the comfort and safety of others so that we can come together in these trying times.