OPINION: Saying goodbye to an old friend – my face mask

Students around Pacific Northwest discuss feeling about possible end to mask mandates



Are colleges in this region ready for the end of mask mandates? Onlt time will tell.

JORDAN AHLSTEDT, Evergreen columnist

Are you sick and tired of hearing about COVID-19 in the news? Well, you are not alone. But here I am writing about it anyway. 

The day we never thought would come is here. The mask mandate will be lifted not only in the state of Washington but also at WSU starting next week, while we are all on spring break. 

I am going to get it out of the way and say that I think it is ironic that WSU is lifting the mask mandate before we come back from break when, just a few months ago, they were panicking about how we are all going to come back from winter break with COVID-19 – which we did. 

I do not think I am alone in judging WSU’s administration on their decision-making as of late. But I also think I am not alone in wondering how lifting mask mandates around the country is going to impact other universities, if it has at all. 

Mariana Walteros, freshman pre-sciences major at University of Washington, wrote in an email that she thinks it is too soon to be lifting the mask mandate in Washington and masks should continue to be worn on campus. 

“The pandemic isn’t over,” Walteros wrote. 

UW, which operates on a quarter system, started off the year with online classes and returned to in-person classes on Jan. 31.

They have required all students and faculty to be vaccinated and wear masks while in indoor settings and have not changed these requirements in light of Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of the end of the mandate. 

Their decision most likely has to do with location. UW is in Seattle, which is a more densely populated area and experiences more cases than Pullman does, according to the Department of Health.  

Currently, King County has 93 cases per 100,000 people, while Whitman County has 34 cases per 100,000 people. 

As a resident of Pullman, I make trips across the state border into Idaho, so it is also important to look at the data to the east. 

Jared Baserman, freshman business major at Boise State University, had a different experience than WSU and UW students.

“Boise State just sent out an email on Monday [2/28] saying that we haven’t had any positive cases in 2 weeks on campus, and there were only seven positive cases that were tested off of campus,” Baserman wrote in an email. 

Baserman also recalled the university’s decision to make masking optional everywhere on campus except the classrooms. 

“I think a lot of people feel that this is kind of dumb because we don’t have to wear masks anywhere else on campus, so why should we have to wear them in classrooms?” Baserman wrote. 

Mask fatigue is not a new feeling. It makes sense that students would feel this way because masks are not required everywhere, especially if cases are down. 

Regarding whether I think lifting the mask mandate is a good idea or a bad idea, I am at a crossroads. 

On one hand, I have done everything I can to protect myself and others from COVID-19 by quarantining in 2020, getting vaccinated and boosted in 2021 and updating my masks in 2022. So, it should be safe for me to take off my mask. 

On the other hand, I know that wearing masks indoors can help protect me and prevent me from spreading illnesses to my immunocompromised loved ones. 

I have also been wearing a face mask for two years. Wearing a mask has been integrated into my life. It is almost like saying goodbye to an old friend. 

Baserman wrote that he feels comfortable not wearing one at this point. 

I think despite the changing guidelines at WSU, I am still going to wear a mask in my crowded lecture hall classes. Especially for the first week or so after we come back from break. 

Walteros believes that we are going to have to go back to a mask mandate because cases will surge after the mandate is lifted. 

She may have a point – that is what happened when the mandate was lifted for fully vaccinated people before the surge of the Delta variant. 

Fingers crossed, I guess.