Rising debate on the mask mandate

As schools slowly make their way back to normal, students and staff have spoken up regarding the importance of mask wearing to maintain a safe school environment.

According to the Marin Health and Human Services, 83.9% of people in Marin are vaccinated with 28% having the booster shot as well. San Marin has one of the highest percentages of students and staff fully vaccinated among the Novato Unified School District (NUSD) schools. As of Nov. 30, 96.47% of staff members and 84.46% of students have been fully vaccinated.

A study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that “schools without mask requirements saw nearly four times as many COVID-19 outbreaks as schools with such mandates.”

Sophomore Laila Bakerian focused on the effectiveness of masks towards overall health and safety. “I think everyone should have to wear a mask because some people are immunocompromised and cannot get the vaccine to keep themselves safe…,” Bakerian said.

Sophomore Matt Giomi took into consideration the idea that benefits of wearing masks outweigh the challenges that come with it.

“I don’t think [masks] are comfortable, but I understand that they can protect others around you.” Giomi is ready to ditch wearing masks when the mandate is eventually lifted.

Junior Dillon Gaidano focused his perspective on the timeline of the booster development. “I do not trust it because just like the vaccine, this booster was made incredibly fast and enough testing has not happened to determine its safety,” Gaidano said.

According to the CDC, “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support approval or authorization of a vaccine.”

Junior Max Thornton stressed the importance of taking the necessary safety measures in order to improve conditions. “The faster we take other precautions against COVID-19, the sooner we can stop wearing masks,” Thornton said.

As circumstances improve, Thornton trusts that the number of COVID cases will be low enough to eliminate the need for masks.

Thornton was skeptical when the vaccines first came out; he researched what was in them and how they worked. By doing so, Thornton felt safe getting vaccinated, and he strongly advocates for students to do their research concerning the safety of the vaccines as well.

Assistant Principal, Shawna Torres, is in constant contact with Marin Country Public Health. “Marin County Public Health is requiring that masks are to be worn indoors in K-12 settings and recommended outdoors,” Torres said. “I know there’s challenges and I know there’s benefits; I can see both ends.”

Regarding relational work among students and teachers, Torres felt that the mask mandate makes it difficult to see expressions and hear during daily interactions. When outdoors, she enjoys seeing students’ full faces from a distance as it helps her to connect with them. “The masks present more challenges…it makes it harder to connect,” Torres said.

When the time comes for masks to no longer be required at schools, Torres sees classrooms continuing the necessary precautions in order to keep a safe environment.

“I would assume that proper ventilation and the use of air purifiers are not going to go away,” Torres said.

Torres gives a majority of the credit to the students for doing their part in taking the necessary precautions. Most if not all of the time, she sees students properly wearing masks and being considerate of others.

“Students are being extremely respectful of each other, not only to their peers but to the adults in the rooms and facilities,” Torres said. “A praise to our student body; everybody is doing a good job. Hopefully with people doing their part and taking things seriously we can see some changes, feel more normal, see smiles, and engage with each other.”

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