Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt (via Unsplash)
As of August 10th, 2021, wearing a mask in public spaces is no longer mandated by the government. As a result, students and staff are no longer required to wear masks on campus (with some exceptions). While some of us are thrilled by the news that we can return to some sort of normalcy, others find the lifting of mandatory mask policies to be worrying. According to MUN officials, mask-wearing will still be encouraged on campus, so the question is: to wear or not to wear a mask?
It has been a long year and a half since the COVID pandemic made headlines worldwide and our lives were thrown into mania as we struggled to cope with all the changes that were being forced upon us by circumstance. Fear made some of us accept change wholeheartedly, though not without struggling to adjust. Others… fought the changes to the bitter end. A further division of people followed guidelines, obeyed laws and rules put in place by the government to keep us safe and did their best to work through the pandemic as a community.
Now that we have maintained some level of sanctuary in our province for an allotted period, we are being rewarded with the option to not wear our masks (if these conditions persist). There are also no rules to say that we can’t wear masks, so, continuing to wear your mask in public is completely acceptable as well.
While there are threats of new strains of COVID and this may terrify some, we must remember that the reason the mask mandate was lifted is that the government no longer thought it necessary. It is not unreasonable for someone who has religiously committed to wearing their mask throughout the pandemic to decide to shed their mask now that they are allowed to.
In my experience, the percentages of people who have been wearing their masks in public over the last few days have been 50/50 – an even split – which I can say most definitely was not the case as little as a week ago. Before Tuesday afternoon it had been ages since I had seen someone in public without their mask on, although there definitely were some people who avoided it at all costs.
The removal of the mask mandate is going to be a big adjustment for us all. It is going to take time to return to normal, and who knows how long this will last? I implore both sides of the coin, those who choose to continue to wear their masks and those who don’t, to be open-minded, free of judgement, and to accept other individuals’ decisions. Our situation has become a whole new story now that we aren’t required to wear masks, and the choice is up to every one of us.
The most important thing for us to keep in mind over these next few weeks is that it is entirely up to everyone to choose whether they would like to wear a mask. Just because someone isn’t wearing a mask, doesn’t mean they are against vaccinations or that they are selfish individuals. We can’t start taking sides now when we’ve been working together for so long.