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Unmasking the State Debate Over the Mask Mandate

By Joanna Reid

A sign that shows that people must wear their face covering in a Starbucks.

New York state reinforced the mask mandate as Covid-19 cases rose due to the Omicron variant. Governor Kathy Hochul reintroduced the mandate on Dec. 10, 2021, which requires that all people over the age of two must wear masks indoors in public spaces or show proof of vaccination. Originally the mandate was put in place for a month and was extended for businesses till Feb. 10 and schools until Feb. 21, as long as Covid cases decline. This has led Adelphi to require students and staff members to wear masks indoors and outdoors regardless of vaccination status when on campus.

But the governor lifted the restrictions on Thursday, Feb. 10. Masks are still required in hospitals, doctors offices, transportation systems, homeless shelters and schools–though the latter is being re-evaluated and an announcement is expected on Feb. 28. Some medical experts agree with Hochul’s decision and believe New York is ready to unmask, while other medical experts believe we still need some time.

There is no doubt that the mask mandate has caused lots of division among people nationwide. Medical experts and the CDC have stated it’s the best way to minimize the spread of the virus. Others believe this is infringing on their freedom. Parents in Northern New York got together to form a protest against requiring masks in schools. They said they believe they deserve the right to choose. And many who agree are relating this stance to the “my body, my choice” movement that has to do with abortion rights. According to a student poll posted on The Delphian’s Instagram page (@the_delphian), 79 percent agree with the mandate in place and 21 percent people disagree.

A first-year psychology major, Meli Rappaport, said, “The mask mandate is super important. I’m glad we have it. I feel safer knowing that everyone has to wear a mask inside and outside. As someone with an autoimmune disease, I feel better entering buildings and know that I’m not as likely to get sick. I believe Adelphi is doing a good job at enforcing this rule.”

On the other hand, Communications major and senior Robert Rehxa, said, “I think that the current mandate is too strict. I don't see the need to mandate masks when most of the school is vaccinated and online classes are available for those who aren't comfortable with being on campus.”

Both students make fair points. However, I believe that the mandate is really important too. I think Adelphi has created a strong foundation to ensure that their community stays healthy. They could be stricter in enforcing those rules. Despite the ongoing pandemic, I’ve seen numerous people who still do not wear masks in public spaces. Whose job is it to enforce these rules both on and off campus? I think we can all agree that we want life to go back to “normal;” or as normal as possible. So I think the best way for the community to heal from this fast-moving virus is to get vaccinated and wear the safest masks when in public, like an N95 mask. The CDC explains, “Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets by the wearer,” meaning the main purpose of the mask is to stop the spread of saliva and air from person to person. This is vital because the virus spreads through close contact, so if one’s saliva or oxygen is contaminated it can infect others.

I know it can be hard because it’s in human nature to want to indulge in socialization. However, hanging out in large groups is only likely to increase the spread. I don’t believe that this should be a political issue; this is about empathy. Some people need to come to terms with the fact that the only way New York can decrease Covid-19 cases is if we all are focused on doing what’s best for the common good.

CNY Central news reported that the courts could extend the mandate to March 2. It’s possible that this will happen because there is a surge in cases. As of this deadline, there were 189 new daily Covid cases in Garden City alone. And New York state averages 6,817 new cases weekly, according to daily tracking by “The New York Times.”

Public places now have the choice to enforce a mask policy. We will have to wait and see how Adelphi reacts to this change.

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