Mask or Pass? (Editorial)

Should there be exemptions to mask wearing in public, including school buildings?

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QUESTIONABLE PROTECTION: As the pandemic continues, many are beginning to question if masks should be required or not, leaving some to make up excuses. Since limited light has been shined on this topic in the past, it is time to discover who should be wearing a mask and who should not be.

Over the past few months, many changes have taken place. One significant change is the addition of masks into nearly everyone’s lives. While many have worn these masks without a second thought, others have begun to question whether they should be required to wear them or not.

A popular belief is that certain medical conditions can make one exempt from wearing a mask, so some have used this rumor to develop an excuse as to why they are not wearing a mask when in public. With all the confusion, one may begin to ask: Who is truly exempt from wearing a mask?

Starting off, there are not as many exemptions to the mask rules as one may think. In fact, it is extremely rare that anyone would be allowed to disobey the mask guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC noted that anyone who is able to take a mask on and off by themselves and is above the age of two is required to wear a mask.

A widespread opinion is that those with asthma, allergies, or any condition affecting the respiratory system can be exempt from the mask requirements. However, many of those conditions provide even more of a reason for that individual to wear a mask.

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Unlike masks, these conditions affect one’s ability to breathe, increasing their vulnerability to the virus compared to one facing no respiratory conditions. Many health professionals agree that the typical surgical and cloth face masks do not affect one’s respiratory system negatively. These types of masks provide no obstruction to one’s ability to inhale but instead filter the air that is exhaled to reduce the spread of the virus.

If one were to encounter any difficulties while wearing a surgical or cloth mask, health professionals conclude that this is due to user-error. A surgical or cloth face mask that is worn properly and fits one’s face as intended should cause no breathing difficulties to the wearer and should lessen the spread of the virus.  

With schools back in session, many students and school staff have been required to wear masks for an extended period of time. Because of this, some may begin to question if the regulations set for the public still apply in school buildings. However, the mask regulations still stand within school buildings but can vary based on the learning opportunities available and the impact of the virus in the area of the school. 

For Carlisle Area School District (CASD) masks are required to enter a school building, plus temperatures are taken as a preventative measure. If one is not able to wear a mask or does not want to wear a mask, that individual may enroll in the online academy, which is a fully-online schooling experience. Students who are able and willing to follow the mask guidelines set by the district may simply follow the hybrid plan, which puts them in school for two days a week and online for the remaining three. 

Fortunately, CASD has experienced only a few COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the school year. I believe that the mask requirements are responsible for this and have helped keep the number of COVID-19 cases to a minimum. To help keep the spread down and minimize the school district’s contact with the virus, I believe that masks should continue to be worn and sanitization practices should be kept in place. This would ensure that everyone would be safe and healthy as the pandemic continues. If one is truly concerned about their safety or their ability to wear a mask throughout the school day, the virtual academy would be the best option as it discards the need for one to wear a mask and the need to be on-campus.

Many health professionals and even the CDC state that masks and social distancing are essential to reduce the spread of the virus and help keep everyone healthy. These guidelines should also apply to school buildings as students are very vulnerable as they congregate for learning, so these preventative measures would help students maintain a healthy learning career. Due to the effectiveness of masks, they should continue to be required in public and one who thinks they should be exempt from the masks should probably just stay home. In this uncertain time, it is important to take advantage of any opportunities that would reduce the spread of the virus, but also ensure everyone stays healthy and safe.

Disclaimer: Articles designated as “Editorial” represent the views and opinions of the author, not the 2020-2021 Periscope staff, CHS/CASD administration, or the CHS student body.