Masks no more: Exiting the tunnel


Luke Rexing, Contributer

The mask mandate has been updated at the University of Minnesota, with a lift on the ban in certain buildings. The face coverings are no longer needed in all residence halls, dining hall areas, or at sporting events or entertainment venues. Common areas like hallways, libraries, study spaces, or recreation areas are also mask-free zones. This is a big step forward, as we are slowly but surely putting COVID-19 behind us. 

However, face coverings are not completely in our rearview mirror just yet. They are still required to be worn in all classroom and laboratory settings, in all healthcare settings, as well as in all metro transit. This is a bit of a conundrum, considering the majority of students on campus seem to be embracing the fact that they can now see each other’s faces in places where that was not the case before. In my previous article on the mask mandate, I spoke as a voice of the majority. A majority wanted to see masks disappear for good, so they could see the faces of their companions and fellow students. It was clear to me then that we were moving in the right direction, but we had not achieved the end result. Now, we move one step closer, only to be waiting in suspense yet again.

At this point, the masks seem to be more of a political statement as opposed to protection against a harmful virus. From personal experience as a freshman living in a residence hall, nearly all students are not wearing masks in the living spaces, hallways, dining halls, recreation facilities, and nearly everywhere else. However, once a class is in session, we are expected to shield ourselves from the “danger” of airborne illness. Do we really think that the only place that this disease can spread is in the presence of a professor? Of course not. If anything, the main consensus on covid has been the same for the last several months: put it in the past. It does not make any sense to have students covering up their faces in a setting where they are expected to collaborate. It does not make any sense to mask up in a single setting, where students will walk out the door only to remove them. So what are these masks protecting us against? Since the email that sparked a sense of joy and a sense of a return of freedom and normalcy, I have been asking myself this question. 

Nonetheless, I will not refute this update in the mask policy, as it has made life much more comfortable in the last few days. For those who will continue wearing masks, I hold no judgment. There are certain reasons such as mental health, immunodeficiencies, along with other important reasons for those that continue to cover up. However, for the vast majority of the campus, I have the sense that we are finally coming out of something that has been holding us in for a long time. It brings happiness to see people having face-to-face conversations without a barrier muffling the quality and duration of the interaction. It is good to see that our voices can once again be heard loud and clear, and it is good to see that we have not completely lost our sense of connection through an enduring few years of isolation. 

Moving forward, I stand with my viewpoint of the benefit of the majority. I ask myself who is holding the final judgment that will allow us to put what is remaining of covid completely out of sight. However, I thank those who have contributed to our steps thus far and hope for them the best as they have the support of the students behind them. The light at the end of the tunnel has seemed out of reach, but now, we are nearing the exit.