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OPINION: Students, welcome back masks this semester

Mask wearing has been a declining practice, with students deeming masks as ‘restraining and ineffective.’ Yet, students should wear a mask as they return to campus this spring. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

No one thinks twice about other everyday behaviors implemented to ensure safety: seat belts, door locks and phone passwords. Masks should not be viewed any differently. 

Even though COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in Florida, it’s no longer common practice to wear a mask in public when you feel unwell. However, students continue to come to class sick, hacking up a lung, clammy and still unmasked.

In an online survey conducted by The Oracle on Jan. 4, 64% of 30 polled students replied that they wear a mask to classes when they are ill. Despite this being a promising statistic, this number should be higher. It only takes one unmasked student to rapidly spread an illness.

On a campus with nearly 50,000 s tudents, mask wearing needs to be the standard.

After a month of winter vacations and travel, students are returning to campus in the midst of flu season. Students, sick or not, should consider wearing a mask on campus.

Michael Teng, USF professor in biochemistry and medicine, said the first few weeks students arrive back on campus is the optimal time for mask wearing.

Mask up to protect yourselves and others when there is a higher risk of infection such as wave of infections, dense population settings, enclosed spaces like classrooms,” Teng said.

A school with such a large population of students should be more adamant about mask wearing, especially as vaccinations are not required to attend in-person classes. USF encourages students to get vaccinated, and to wear a mask if unvaccinated. 

Destigmatizing masks, and eradicating any political biases Americans have toward mask-wearing, is the first step towards creating a healthy community.

Americans need to recognize that masks are a tool we can use to benefit, not restrain, society. 

I think we need to view masking as being for the greater good rather than an imposition on our freedom. We do things every day for the greater good to prevent the spread of disease – throw trash in bins, wash our hands, use restrooms,” Teng said.

In The Oracle’s survey, 57% of students who do not favor wearing masks said they choose not to do so as they believe the practice is unnecessary and ineffective. 

Masks have been used by the medical industry for a century now. Medical professionals have confidence in the effectiveness of masks to prevent the spread of airway germs.

Despite the confidence from medical professionals, some have claimed masks are not effective.

“Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we have to stop with this COVID theater,” Gov. Ron Desantis stated while visiting USF in March 2022.

Masks are backed up by science, and should be promoted as such.

“Masks are an important tool in preventing the spread of respiratory pathogens. They are useful both in preventing you from both spreading and contracting disease. In terms of COVID-19, multiple case-controlled studies have shown that masks, when worn properly, reduce the spread of SARS CoV-2,” Teng said.

Medical professionals and your fellow classmates both agree that masking up this upcoming semester is the responsible thing to do as we return this spring semester. In order to establish a healthier and happier community, students need to take charge and start wearing masks again – especially on a largely populated campus during the peak of flu season.