The Year of the Mask

November 4, 2020

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “Masks provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.”

Pennsylvania made masks/face coverings mandatory on the 19 of April this year. As per rulings under Governor Tom Wolf, everyone must wear a mask in public spaces.

As a result, all schools have responded by making masks mandatory for the school day, as written by the department of education. PDE states ¨Schools must require all students over two years of age to wear face coverings, except for any student who has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering in school.¨

Some teachers and students understood this going into school, but many were worried about how we would adjust and whether students would follow the rules.

Football coach Chris Grube said, “I think students have done a relatively good job at wearing masks. I was very skeptical in the beginning but students exceeded my expectations.”

While teachers and students are putting their best foot forward, there’s still parts of this rule that take getting used to.

“It has been an adjustment, at the beginning of the year I found myself talking quickly and struggling with the mask. I can’t tell if I have learned to slow down when talking or if I have just gotten used to the mask,” technology teacher James Waltermyer said.

Students agree, it’s been an adjustment and still haven’t entirely figured out how to wear them comfortably all day.

Soccer play Brianna Mack said she wished “masks more acceptable for people who wear glasses. We wear them every day, and I purposely don’t wear my glasses because the masks fog them up.”

Some people may argue that masks interfere with learning or are uncomfortable, so in return PDE also gives an option for mask breaks during the day.

Nurse June Stratmeyer said, “Yes, it is very important for face covering breaks. I have announced and emailed to staff that I recommend a face covering break every period with a drink at that time. I am concerned about us all staying well hydrated with the current state of wearing face covering.

“Breaks can be as brief as a couple minutes, but should be less than ten, and we should try to be more than six feet away from someone when taking a face covering break. Breaks are important for us physically, emotionally, and mentally during this time of a pandemic.”

Statmeyer notified teachers to encourage them to offer 10 minute mask breaks, and many teachers attempt to make that a regular part of class—when possible.

“In some of my classes, non-hybrid days bring less than fifteen kids to class. On those days, I allow them to take a brief break […]. I think the breaks help break some of the tension caused by a universal resentment of wearing these things,” English teacher Joel Logan said.

Masks’ effectiveness has caused a lot of controversy over the past couple months.

An experiment conducted by New England Journal of Medicine , states that: “The act of speaking generates oral fluid droplets that vary widely in size, and these droplets can harbor infectious virus particles.”. These droplets, which could contain the virus, were nearly all stopped by the use of a cloth around the mouth and nose.

This information should be enough to make most people aware of the benefit of using a mask.

“If wearing a mask will keep us in school, I’m all for it,” said Grube.

Stratemeyer also said in the same interview, that “At this time, based on the information we have, masks and washing hands frequently are considered to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID.”

As an example of this, as of October 11, Arizona had no mandate on masks. They also had a 115% spike in cases. After passing a mask mandate, cases dropped nearly 75%.

“Whenever people complain about them, I just feel like in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal. I feel like people complain ‘Oh, I have to wear this mask,” and I’m like ‘Yeah, it’s fine. It’s whatever’,” stated production stage manager Lillian Kreiss.

While many students and teachers don’t enjoy wearing a mask, they recognize its importance and see through the stress of a pandemic into the heart of teaching.

“Frankly, the cooperation and affability of my students makes teaching during the pandemic bearable, because they remind me that I teach because of them,” Logan said.  “I bring my over fifty, overweight, asthmatic body into a potentially lethal environment daily for them. Even with all the discomfort of the masks, the trigger finger danger of spraying the desks 6x a day, and the isolation of a working lunch every day, my students help me still love the work we do in the classroom.”


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