The hardest thing to keep track of as I start my very first year of college isn’t how many meal swipes I have left or where I put my contacts. No, it’s the last time I washed my face masks. I brought a total of five, with every good intention of using each one twice before washing. It’s been almost two weeks now and, from attending numerous orientation sessions to having to plan out when I’ll be studying for class, I haven’t had much time for anything else. Washing face masks regularly? I don’t think so. So what’s my point?
Face masks are a pain. I know we’ve all experienced sitting in class as our faces burned hot with limited oxygen, desperate to run outside to get some fresh air. And don’t get me started on the boogers! We’ve all got them, but face masks are not and should not be used as Kleenex.
Upon our arrival on campus, the administration made an announcement that it would be requiring face masks in all enclosed public spaces and wherever social distancing could not be maintained for the first stage of the semester. Rumors of a coming end to that policy were flying around campus, especially when an update from administration announced that our positivity rate was only 0.28%. When I heard about the possibility of a mask-free St. Olaf, I was surprised.
Without more information, students, faculty, and staff began pondering whether or not our mask-required policy might be lifted, especially if test-positivity rates remain low, and what was at stake if that number rose substantially.
Face masks may be a pain, but they are effective at keeping transmission trends down.
I’ve spoken with a few students who explained that, while they would like to be mask-free, they would still feel anxious about being around other students without one, especially without knowing who they’d been exposed to or where they had been. Just like so many others around me, I crave normalcy. But I can’t help but ask myself: is having an acne-free face worth the potential risk of testing positive for COVID-19? I don’t know. I hate acne, but I also hate quarantine. On the other hand, a mask-free policy would allow teachers to get to know their students better and students to get to know each other without having to memorize a pair of eyes and a forehead. For now, the endless waiting game continues. And while we wait, please don’t forget to wash your masks. I promise to if you do too.