The Mask Mandate Has Been Lifted, Creating A Hesitant Future


Jordan Hoover

A student finally decides to let go of their mask.

After two years of mask-wearing, the Harvard Public School’s mask mandate has been lifted leaving many with mixed feelings and thoughts. For the first time in what seems to be forever, classmates’ full faces are visible and almost unrecognizable with newly grown facial hair and maturity. However, with the mask mandate gone, many frustrations, concerns, and questions still remain. 

While a majority are vaccinated, it is important to remember that the threat of COVID-19 still looms above our heads. It is important to acknowledge that this pandemic is not completely over. With the threat of the new variant, BA.2, and a possible fourth booster shot, hesitancy and anxiety linger.

Lifting the mask mandate is arguably an irresponsible and rash choice the school committee has made. April break is fast approaching, bringing many anticipated problems with it. With students and teachers traveling, going to events, and socializing more, there is a higher risk for someone to get COVID-19. January’s winter break, a week-long school vacation, caused a spike in cases of the virus.

A COVID-19 risk calculator from the MicroCOVID Project declares the increased, rapid spread of COVID-19 from unmasked individuals. Unmasked classrooms create avoidable risks. In a classroom with the majority unmasked, only one person’s positive test can create repercussions in a classroom or beyond, as COVID-19 travels through particles in the air. With a single breath, a person can contract it without knowing; their symptoms would realistically not appear until 3 or 4 days later. By the time these individuals know they are positive, they have been in contact with their family, friends, classmates, and teachers. Without the protection of masks, there is little to do to avoid another imminent and likely outbreak at the school. 

Moreover, an outbreak will further disrupt classrooms, as the option of remote learning is no longer available. Students who are out sick with COVID-19 are unable to fully complete their lessons. As they miss lectures and in-person discussions, these students can quickly fall behind on their coursework. With the school year is slowly coming to an end and AP exams are arriving soon, students may have a harder time maintaining their grades and studies from an impactful break from school.   

As the weeks pass by, it has become more apparent that lifting the mask mandate seems like a means with no end. It was a step back into possible normality, but with no other follow-ups. By lifting the mask mandate, the school committee spreads a message to the student body that the pandemic has ended, however, schoolwide decisions seem to tell otherwise. The fishbowl, a senior-only space for study halls and lunch periods, has not been opened since the pandemic first closed the school system back in 2020, nor has the administration granted back any previous privileges the students had before such as field trips, assemblies, and annual school events like the staff-senior basketball game. With this message, the administration will also have difficulty enforcing other COVID-19 safety measures such as social distancing and snacking in classrooms. 

Lifting the mask mandate has created a hesitant future for the school and for the community.

The removal of the mask mandate will eventually lead to consequences that could have been avoided. Now a hesitant future for the school and community lurks.  With the soon arrival of April Break and fewer options available for remote learning, I believe that the Harvard school committees were too eager in their decision of removing the masks. It would have been wiser to wait until after April Break to test the waters.