Opinion: Choose safety over comfort

With MCHS no longer requiring masks, more students than ever are choosing personal comfort over the safety of their peers and staff


Kennedy Tetour

Though masks became optional at MCHS and other schools in the state on Feb. 7, this decision puts students, staff and the larger community at risk as the school continues to face COVID-19.

Lydia Lawrence, Staff Writer

A student wearing a mask stumbles through the school halls that are full of students. Desperately trying to avoid contact with COVID-19 because of an ill family member at home, they become more worried in the environment they’re supposed to learn in. Not wearing a mask doesn’t help stop the spread of COVID-19. Rather, it’s an unsafe idea that was forced upon Illinois schools.

As of Feb. 4, 2022, a court ruling in Springfield resulted in a temporary restraining order which restricts Governor J.B. Pritzker from enforcing many of his earlier COVID-19 policies. These include policies that require masks for all students, teachers, staff and visitors and quarantine for close contacts, as well as requiring mandatory vaccinations or COVID-19 testing for school employees. This lawsuit was brought to Illinois schools by parents who pay for their children to attend; this case is still open and has a chance to reinstall safety measures schools can take to keep their students and staff safe.

It’s been proven that not wearing a mask in public is unsafe for the individual not wearing one, as well as the general population. Beyond this common knowledge, the CDC states, “If you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, to maximize protection and prevent possibly spreading COVID-19 to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”

MCHS is a public high school that requires two campuses to hold all of the students; it ensures student and staff safety to enforce simple protocols that can prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the campuses in massive numbers. No schools want to shut down again, and most students didn’t prefer or had more trouble with online learning. However, if this new restriction to enforcing masks is here to stay, it’s likely MCHS, as well as surrounding schools in this district will have to return to e-learning. This is due to the high transmission rates in populations that do not wear their masks. 

Along with revoking governor Pritzker’s’ power to enforce wearing masks in District 156, they have also revised quarantining policies. Students and staff are not required to quarantine (which was earlier reduced to only 5 days of isolation) if they come into close contact with an individual that currently has COVID-19. This means anyone that comes into contact with someone who happens to have COVID-19 does not need to be quarantined or wear a mask, and can walk into their school building if they choose to. This will not provide adequate safety precautions to help keep students and staff safe. 

There is no physical benefit from changing the mask mandate to being just a mask recommendation. It may be evident that a possible motive to these lawsuits against the state have to do with political feelings rather than the protection of everyone in Illinois’ schools. Although masks are still required on school buses due to close proximity of people, this doesn’t change the fact that students are still sitting close to each other during classes from 40 to 45 minutes at a time; and get to choose whether they want to wear a mask or not. In most cases, the CDC recommends everyone wear a mask. Some exceptions include a person with a disability who cannot safely wear a mask for reasons related to that disability, and children under two years old. This mask mandate should be enforced again specifically for the protection of others at MCHS who may not be able to wear a mask.

Some individuals may argue that it’s their choice now to decide what works for them in regards to masks, quarantines, and testing. Although in other circumstances it’s best to take care of yourself before others; in terms of a pandemic, it’s more about keeping the people around you safe. Everyone wants this pandemic to be over, so it’s time to be more thoughtful about the decisions being made for the betterment of the communities that are affected by the court ruling.

Only by being proactive will there be improvements in the number COVID-19 cases in the future. Though, as long as people continue to choose comfort over safety, it’s going to be harder to overcome and move past this pandemic.