A Future Without Masks

In a bid to return to normalcy, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy is ending mask mandates in the state’s public schools on March 7, almost two years since the coronavirus gripped the United States and New Jersey. It is important to note that since Monmouth University is a private school, the ending of a mandate for public schools won’t automatically mean Monmouth will go maskless. Since mask mandates have become a controversial issue throughout the country, especially their role in schools, we asked our editors what they thought on the issue.

Two of our editors are pleased with the news, one can be quoted as saying, “I feel it’s long awaited. I am happy about the decision since the younger aged population have been most affected by the transition in public school education to learn while wearing masks.” The other can be quoted as saying, “I think it’s finally time for the mask mandate to be dropped. We don’t wear them in restaurants or grocery stores so I don’t think we need them in school. I think the masks are extremely detrimental to elementary school kids.” The editor continues, saying, “It’s affecting the morning communication skills and social skills. It’s also unnatural to be breathing our own air in such close proximity so it’s affecting everyone. I think it’ll be a great decision that’ll benefit us all.”

Most of our editors however are concerned with the lifting of mandates. “I’m a little bit hesitant about Governor Murphy’s decision to lift the mask mandate in March. We’ve lived with masks for so long now that it kind of just feels like second nature. For me personally, I feel a lot safer when I’m wearing one,” the editor said, while also stating, “Schools tend to be pretty dirty in terms of students sharing germs, which raises concerns about COVID outbreaks when students start to run around without masks on. I guess we have to move beyond masks at some point, but it definitely feels weird to hear that it’s actually starting to happen.”

Two further editors hold similar concerns. “The decision to end mask mandates in public schools should not happen. I feel it is still a bit too early to have masks removed, especially if kids are not vaccinated” one editor stated, with another one saying, “I feel like the decision to end mask mandates in public schools is way too premature. We have seen it before where cases go down dramatically, and then a couple of months later there is a new wave.”

The editor continues their point, saying “I feel like the state government should’ve waited a little more. I know we are all anxious to get back to normal, but there is no reason why children should be put at risk. Although the mask mandate has ended, I think students may still end up choosing to wear a mask just to be on the safe side.”

A further editor was also concerned with the lifting of the mandate, saying, “Phil Murphy’s decision to end the mandate is concerning. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, meaning COVID will spread quickly here, as we have seen. Should another variant as or more infectious as Omicron rolls around, our children, and those they come into contact with, such as their grandparents, are being put in unnecessary risk for disease.”

All in all, there was a slight split in the editorial staff concerning the ending of the mask mandate. As a driving reason behind ending the mandate, Governor Murphy on his Twitter says, “As we look at the number of newly recorded cases, we see the rate of transmission holding steady over the past week at well below one, which continues to be a positive sign.” The rate of transmission is the rate by which how many infections will result from one infection, and as the state is below one, the figures suggest we’re moving in the right direction and that new COVID cases should continue to decline in the near future.