New year, the same story. At the beginning of the 2021 school year, many people thought things would be different. The rampage of Covid-19 had seemed to be near its end with the introduction of the multiple vaccines, and a sense of normalcy began to return to the community. At Cherokee Trail High School, masks were optional, and students once again had school full time, five days a week. However, this fantasy would soon come to an abrupt halt.
On Sept. 1, 2021, a mask mandate from Tri-County Health was officially announced, requiring all students and staff to wear masks during school hours while on campus. With their choice revoked, people were left feeling indifferent. While some were upset by the news of these standard guidelines, others didn’t have quite the same reaction.
Specific individuals, like Kris Sun (11), fall into the belief that this mandate is for our safety, “I’m not opposed to it, and the reason why is because there are sacrifices that need to be made to stay safe,” said Sun (11). Not only are these measures needed to protect the health of the unvaccinated, but they also still work to protect the health of the immunocompromised.
“I don’t mind it,” said Brayden Tortorelli (10) “it doesn’t bother me too much.” While many already hold set beliefs on the matter, there is still an apparent dichotomy between those willing to mask up and those who wish to remain unmasked.
Although some comprehend the reasoning behind the mandate, they still feel taken aback by the decision. “I understand why we need the mask mandate, but it is a little annoying, and I don’t like it,” said Brinlee Ivester (10). Others are frustrated with the mandate but would still rather deal with the inconvenience than return online.
“I honestly don’t like it, you can’t hear anybody, everybody’s muffled, it’s a little harder to see what everybody’s saying, and it’s a little harder to build connections, but it’s better than going back to online learning,” said Tess Mapes (10). This previous school year’s hybrid schedule of remote learning was a struggle for many students who thrive in a collaborative and engaging environment. Nevertheless, it was the school’s compromise regarding its students, who had nothing but their masks and social distancing to protect against the virus.
Over the summer of 2021, however, several companies had finished their vaccines and proved them effective in protecting against Covid-19. With the addition of these vaccines being approved for those 12 years and older, some continue to question if masks are needed at all. “If people are vaccinated and if there is no cause for concern, then there shouldn’t be a need for a mask,” said Sun (11).
“I don’t feel like [people] should have to wear a mask because the vaccine works,” stated Braden Simpson (10). When mask mandates were previously lifted, many relished the opportunity to participate in this much-welcomed development, expecting it to be the first step in return to normalcy. As mentioned earlier, these guidelines are now back in place despite many having the vaccine.
As of Sept. 12, 2021, 397 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States. Some of these doses have even gone to members of our CT community, “I’m vaccinated,” said Tortorelli (10), “I don’t mind whether I have to wear a mask or not.”
Some find masks unbearable face coverings that only hinder one’s ability to communicate and interact with the world, while others are more apathetic to the matter. The vaccine aided in calming people’s concerns about contracting the virus, promising a chance to leave the house like it was any other day.
“I’m personally vaccinated, but I know that I’m still able to transmit particles, and I can still catch Covid-19; I just have a better chance of fighting it off,” said Mapes (10). While the vaccine does significantly help protect people from catching the virus, it does not guarantee immunity. Instead, the vaccine safeguards people from suffering from Covid-19 to such an extent that they are hospitalized.
The student population of Cherokee Trail is split in their opinions. Masks and vaccines, the pandemic and normalcy, are all matters with no solution to please everyone. This issue has been politicized to the point where the facts of science become obsolete, making this issue even more divisive for teens and their families. Tri-County Health’s decision to reinstate the mask mandate in schools from kindergarten through high school has taken the exact mental toll as it did last year and then some. Seeing as students were led to believe this school year would be different from the previous. How will students be able to make long-lasting memories when the future is so uncertain? Only time will tell what effects will be had on our students and our community as well.