Ama Asare

Third period Anthony Rutledge’s IB Biology II chose to wear their masks, with the exception of one student, even though the mask mandated had been lifted and enforced by the Westerville City School District.

Ama Asare, Reporter

As the COVID-19 cases started to decline rapidly from late January through March, many COVID-19 guidelines have altered. The CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention K-12 Schools shortened the amount of time spent in quarantine and stated that masks are recommended by students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, but they are not mandatory. 

As COVID-19 cases also decreased in Ohio, Westerville City Schools District transformed from requiring staff and students to wear masks at all times to making masks optional on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Later on March 7, passengers and drivers were also able to participate in the mask optional guideline set by the CDC.

Given this transition, there are certain conditions under which the CDC strongly advises individuals to continue wearing a mask regardless of their vaccination status.

For example, wearing a mask while attending plays, concerts, athletic contests, and other indoor events with an audience or group of spectators. During one-to-one meetings or small group gatherings, even if able to maintain appropriate physical distancing. 

Because the school district has been enforcing the new guidelines, many students have been split on whether or not to participate. 

Senior Sara Ismael said, “I do not mind the guidelines as long as people take precautions of their health and ultimately make other people feel safe. Safety is the number one reason why I still wear my mask. COVID-19 is still here and it’s not completely gone. My parents also encourage me and siblings to wear masks wherever we go”.

“I feel like it would be selfish not to wear a mask, seeing as many immune compromised people can’t as of now. I won’t move on and “be done” until everyone can, including immune compromised people can,” sophomore Cassie Chakford said.

Other students at Westerville South participated in the uplifted mask mandate and chose not to wear their masks. 

“I choose not to wear my mask because I don’t fear it. I’m young, vaccinated and quite healthy. No comorbidities, in fact, nothing of the kind. I would never force my beliefs on anyone else – I think that anyone who wants to wear a mask should be able to, but I just choose not to,” freshman Michael McWhorter said.

“I have respiratory issues that affect my ability to breathe so the masks make it harder to breathe so I decided to not wear my mask,” said junior Andra Vaughan.

As for the staff at Westerville South, social studies teacher Eric Calland said, “Overall, I do think it was time. I think our district has done a pretty good job of getting kind of a feel for the area. My concern is that I just want people to feel comfortable and I hope everyone respects other people’s decisions. It has also made a difference in the classroom. I feel as if there is more emotion and it probably helps to see teachers’ faces. In all, I hope people respect other people’s decisions.”

With spring break coming up and people planning to travel, the covid rates may be affected. Westerville South nurse, Jessica Gilbert said, “I think that there is a concern when people are traveling but good news is on air planes, masks are still mandated. So people going on airplanes with people they do not know still have to wear masks. If people are going somewhere and they are driving, it is with their immediate family. Therefore, I don’t think there will be a drastic change.”

The Westerville City School District COVID-19 numbers also display the low cases. Ever since the mask mandate was lifted, there have been little to no COVID-19 cases in most schools and high schools- about seven cases in total in the Westerville City School District. 

The City of Westerville has also decided to lift their mask mandate and now states that “masks are optional in all City of Westerville buildings”.