End to Campus Mask Mandate: Con Opinion


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Many still have doubts about lifting the indoor mask mandate, citing health concerns.

Eric White, Staff Writer

For the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for communities worldwide. According to the CDC, in the United States alone, 901,422 people have died from COVID-19 as of Feb. 5. With daily death totals still surpassing 4,000 a day, it’s more than possible that the ultimate death toll will reach far more than one million by the end of this year.

To the dismay of all, the pandemic is not yet over. Yet, schools, businesses and states across the country are rapidly loosening their mask and vaccination requirement protocols, including Villanova. University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D. announced that the mandatory mask mandate has been lifted and would go into effect Feb. 14., after which no one is required to wear masks in campus buildings.

Villanova boasts an impressive rate of vaccinated staff and students due to exemptions to the mandate being few and far between. Though the number of cases detected weekly on campus has significantly dropped as a result, it isn’t time to celebrate yet.

The Director of Public Health in Los Angeles County, Barbara Ferrer, has given a press statement on the possibility of lifting mask mandates in the near future.

“We should not be lifting the masking mandate when we are reporting thousands and thousands of new cases every day,” Ferrer stated, staunchly against the idea.

I am inclined to agree. Things are looking up from the dire statistics that have been reported in the past, which is undoubtedly excellent. However, we are by no means in the clear. Thousands of people are still dying every day, with thousands more testing positive.

The effects of Long Covid, or the lingering impacts of COVID-19 infection that have left many Americans disabled long after their contraction of the disease, are being examined on a greater scale. Though much progress has been made, this is not over.

Even if lifting the mask mandate does not result in a massive surge of cases on campus (due to many students already acting as if the mandate was lifted months ago), I believe it sets an unfortunate precedent and gives the illusion that we are in the clear.

If not even an educational institution like the University is requiring masks, what pandemic cautions are really necessary, anyway? Lifting the mask mandate represents a rejection of safety. It’s a signal that the pandemic is at the end, if not over already.

What does that mean for the more than 900,000 deaths that have occurred over the past two years and the thousands who die every day? Why is it that their suffering, and their unfortunate fates, are being ignored, in favor of returning to normal life more quickly? Just because we ignore reality and the immeasurable weight of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Lifting the mask mandate just a month after Villanova reported 704 new positive cases between Jan. 5 and Jan. 17 (per the Community First COVID-19 update) feels like a slap in the face. Who is to say that the cases won’t spike again now that the mask mandate has been so casually tossed aside a mere month after, out of the approximately 11,000 total students at the University, more than 700 (or a full 6.3%) of the student body, tested positive for COVID-19?

This represents a greater trend present across the nation, with businesses and institutions rushing to lift mandates far before the pandemic has ceased its reign. It’s out of desperation to return to the way things were before the pandemic, a sentiment that is more than understandable. The idea of a raging, infectious disease as “the new normal” is bleak to say the least, and dystopian to say the most.

But just because things have gotten better does not mean they’re over. Just because we are all sick and tired of hearing about masks, vaccinations, mandates, quarantines and rapidly changing protocols, doesn’t mean we are in the home stretch yet.

As such, the University’s lifting of the mask mandate is a poorly thought out and rushed decision. Regardless of how it impacts the COVID-19 infections on campus, it represents the rejection of science and a push towards national numbness over thousands of daily deaths and infections.