Staff Editorial – Two-week mask mandate will not suffice

After nearly two years of living through a pandemic, fearing news of quarantines and ill relatives, and reading about vaccines and precautions everywhere we go, it is still so incredibly clear that we have quite some time before we can stop caring.

Yet, looking at the number of students and faculty unmasked throughout the halls of Mason High School for the majority of this school year, prior to the two-week mandate instituted on January 18, you would not know that. If anything, you would think that the curve of daily case numbers has been flattening, rather than the spike that has actually been happening.

What is even more frustrating, regardless of individual choices, is the reasoning behind the brief mask mandate. It was stated by Mason City Schools (MCS) Superintendent Jonathan Cooper on the MCS YouTube channel, in a video posted on January 13, that the rule is being implemented as a way of speeding up the contact-tracing process, not necessarily for protecting students. In a previous video, he discussed how staff members were “tired” when it came to policing masks. And, as most students could see until January 18 when walking the halls of MHS, students were tired of masking as well.
And we get it. You are tired. It has been years of mask-wearing and your ears ache. You got your braces off this year and you want people to see your teeth. Masks are annoying, you forget about putting them in your car before you head to school, you have to take them off to eat or drink, you are unable to fully tell what that new student looks like. It is exhausting.

It is even more exhausting to still be living through a pandemic that could have been over so long ago.

Enforcing a prolonged mask mandate would not destroy the reputation that Mason has built for itself as progressive or “ahead of the curve.” Those tweets and articles and newsletters about Mason being open for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year would not be diminished. The one issue that is tarnishing the reputation of Comet Country is the fact that half of our high school is maskless, that dozens of students are testing positive for COVID-19 every single day and being forced to quarantine in their bedrooms out of fear of giving it to their other family members.

Sacrificing the livelihood of thousands of Mason residents while stating that your hands are tied is not avoiding controversy. Rather, it is perceived as avoiding blame. Temporary measures, especially after such a prolonged lack of substantial measures seem fickle and compensating. If this pandemic is to ever cease in its claiming of time and life from the students in this district, strong action must be taken.

And that strong action should, at the very least, be a mask mandate for the foreseeable future.