Photo Illustration by Kira Farooqui, 42Fifty

The COVID-19 pandemic has put Oswego High School into a spiral of problems. A problem has been mandating masks and getting students to wear them, and wear them properly.

As a staff, our opinions were collected and brought together as one on the issue. The 42Fifty Editorial Board believes that students should wear masks properly at all times, with more action taken by the school if not followed, unless one has a medical condition. This action could be to have consequences if the student continually wears the mask incorrectly. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, there was a huge emphasis on wearing masks and wearing them properly. Now, in the 2021-2022 school year, we have noticed a significant amount of people either not wearing their masks properly, or just not wearing them at all.

At the beginning of this year as well as currently, there were signs all around the school mandating masks. The administration of Oswego High School has weekly announcements stating that masks need to be worn over the nose properly. Also, staff has utilized weekly slideshows that feature announcements reminding students to please wear their masks, maintain social distancing, and wash their hands. However, the issue of enforcing masks and maintaining proper safety protocols with an announcement over the intercom or a slideshow will not solve the issue. Even with that reminder, we still see students either not wearing masks correctly or not at all. The school needs to enforce more strict consequences for students who do not wear masks properly or at all.

Though we have done a decent amount in order to mandate COVID-19 protocol, there is still much to be done. We believe that teachers, being the role models of the school, need to set an example for the students when it comes to wearing masks in hopes of the students following the example. Adding on to this, a common problem we have noticed is the lack of students wearing their masks correctly—some will still have it on, but below their nose or under their chin. We believe that in order for COVID-19 protocols to be effective, students must be able to wear their masks correctly. Teachers can help fix this issue by consistently reminding students to wear their masks correctly, and giving gentle reminders to fix it if it isn’t already correct. If possible—and necessary—we may look into more defined consequences and ask ourselves: at what point is it punishable? We can also start up the use of contact tracing again, social distancing guidelines (especially because these have gotten far more lenient than necessary during the 2021-2022 school year), and emphasizing the importance of the mask policy to students.

Students can also do their own part in helping enforce the mask protocols. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, students did very well in following the social distancing guidelines that were put in place. Now, the students hardly follow them and are commonly seen clumped together, hugging each other, and shoving each other. Students also tend to think that masks are ineffective, but studies have shown that masks actually block up to 50-70% of droplets transmitted through the air. Oftentimes, students will use phrases such as “it’s not a law”, “I’m vaccinated”, and “it doesn’t even do anything” as rebuttals for wearing a mask. However, according to the CDC, even if you are vaccinated, you can both spread COVID and get COVID. Governor Pritzker still has not lifted the mask mandate, which means that wearing a mask in Illinois is still heavily suggested and should be done. Think about it; if wearing a mask makes it hard for you to breathe, what would COVID do? Don’t worry—you can still talk to your friends all while wearing a mask. We know it’s hard. We know it’s been a long time. But as students ourselves, we need to acknowledge that COVID isn’t over yet.

However, with all the reasons for why wearing a mask should be necessary, there are some valid oppositions to why masks should not be worn. One clear example is medical conditions — where some people can not wear a mask due to a medical condition. Therefore, in order to protect them, students and staff should wear masks to protect those who can not. Instead of caring about ourselves, we must care about them, and help keep them safe. Another reason that some have is they say they can not breathe and the masks are too heavy. Therefore, we have linked two articles: one here about mask options that are lightweight and allow more airflow, and another here that explains what kind of mask is best for you if you have difficulty breathing. Fully-vaccinated people might also argue that they do not need to wear a mask due to their vaccination status. However, the CDC has proven in this article, “Vaccinated people can still become infected and have the potential to spread the virus to others, although at much lower rates than unvaccinated people. The risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection in fully vaccinated people are higher where community transmission of the virus is widespread.” This proves that even with the vaccine one can still contract the virus. While that chance may be low, there is still the need to wear a mask and take proper safety measures in order to lower that chance even more. Therefore, every problem that a student might have with a mask can be fixed. Now the issue is just getting them to wear it properly all the time.

In the end, all we ask as a group of students from Oswego High School is that we all follow through on the standard of wearing a mask properly at all times. The 42Fifty staff believes the school needs to do a better job of meeting expectations set by the state government. Therefore, all one needs to do is wear a mask, that’s it.

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