The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

3…2…1…Mask Off!

LM switches to mask optional due to CDC recommendations.

Is the pandemic finally ending? With the switch to a mask optional policy at LM—a scenario many deemed unlikely to happen earlier this year—the end of the pandemic appears to finally be in sight. Students and teachers had been wondering for months whether or not they could ever take off their masks until the afternoon of Sunday, February 28, when LMSD announced the decision in an email sent to families, students, and staff.

In accordance with the updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), masking within schools is no longer recommended in communities labeled as a low or medium risk. Currently, Montgomery County is on the medium level, which obviously may change at any given moment, but for the time being, wearing a mask in public schools is not a necessity.  

Many LM students had been eagerly awaiting the end to masking and did not hesitate to make the switch. “I’m happy that I don’t have to wear a mask anymore, but I’m definitely not going to judge anyone for still choosing to wear a mask,” says Ava Altman ’23. Talia Rizzo ’23 believes “that it’s appropriate in some situations not to wear a mask. Yet I think students should still bring a mask just in case, like when there’s a lot of people in the lunchroom or whenever desks are super close together. It just is safer that way.” A sophomore (who wishes to remain anonymous) offers a more controversial take: “At the end of the day, the majority of people who are most at risk of COVID-19 are those who aren’t vaccinated and have plenty of time to get vaccinated. I’m not going to go out of my way for people who won’t even get a shot.” For this reason they choose not to wear a mask.

Mask-optional policies apply to after school activities as well | Photo by Julia Dubnoff ’23/staff

Other members of the LM community still choose to wear their masks despite the updated CDC guidelines. Spanish teacher Sara Nemoy shares, “I think that it’s okay that LM reverted to a mask optional because the CDC lifted all the mandates.” Nemoy, who still chooses to wear a mask while teaching, adds, “personally, I think that the pandemic is not over and people need to remember that, but of course I respect any personal decision to mask or not.” Jaiden Do ’23 agrees, “I just feel safer when wearing a mask.” 

Other students, including Noah Barkan ’24, want to protect those around them who are still vulnerable to the virus. 

“I babysit for preschoolers who can’t be vaccinated and I spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I don’t really care that I have a mask on so I’d rather take an abundance of caution.” 

Barkan believes that “a big part of people’s decision to wear a mask comes down to the stigmas surrounding masking rather than purely science.”Assuredly, throughout the pandemic, “anti-maskers” versus “pro-maskers” has become a well-known narrative in the news and on social media. Now, however, it’s important to understand that the CDC no longer recommends wearing masks, so not wearing a mask will become much more widely accepted.

To some students who have become comfortable wearing a mask for the past two years, they just think that it looks best and have no scientific reason for continuing to wear a mask. Some say “I don’t like the bottom half of my face”.

Some teachers choose to continue to wear a mask while others have embraced the mask-free option. | Photo by Julia Dubnoff ’23/staff

Low case count in our community is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of COVID-19, but the pandemic isn’t gone yet. It may never be completely “gone.” For many immunocompromised individuals, the virus still poses a great risk to their health. We have also experienced the introduction of new variants that caused a tremendous influx in cases, and we still don’t know what the future holds. For now, optional masking is a policy that could foreshadow a way out of the pandemic and one that many have sought for months. It gives us a cautious hope that things are finally returning to what they once were. The most important aspect of this transition is for everyone to respect each other’s decisions to mask or not to mask and simply take the change as a positive step toward a return to normalcy.

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