Masks may be associated with the pandemic but they are important with any illness

Breanna Khameraj
October 6, 2022
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

The absence of masks does not relieve students from the pandemic state of learning but rather pushes us more toward it

C/O Tai's Captures (Unsplash)

We appear to have introduced the new normal of the post-pandemic. Students can once again freely socialize, hybrid learning is at its peak and the mask mandate is long gone. However, COVID-19 and many other common sicknesses are circulating within the population. 

Cold and flu season has arrived and with the end of the mask mandate on campus, it is concerning how quickly viruses are spreading among students. With illnesses running rampant throughout campus, many individuals are thrown back to the early pandemic — time when students lacked the tools to protect themselves against fast-spreading diseases.  

Living Systems Laboratory, a second-year course taught by Dr. Tomljenovic-Berube, includes a unit on epidemiology. This unit teaches students about the biological mechanisms of how viruses spread. Students learn that illnesses such as the flu are airborne diseases that spread through respiratory droplets obtained through the air, or infected surfaces. They are also taught the infectious rates and measures to prevent sicknesses from spreading which have been prominently implemented throughout the pandemic.  

Learning about the rates at which diseases spread among the student population due to a lack of masks can cause concerns for students attending in-person classes. It can be worrying to go back to school knowing that other sicknesses are still present among COVID-19, especially when you hear your peers sniffling and coughing in lectures and tutorials.  

Contagious students are likely attending in-person elements and due to the lack of a mask mandate students are not wearing masks in enclosed spaces. It can be uncomfortable sitting next to a coughing student and neither one of you has any form of protection. Understandably, masks come from a time of frustration and loss. However, masks also provide us with a safety barrier and continue to do so; masks hinder the spread of airborne illnesses.  

The lack of mask usage on campus fosters a growing population of sick students and rather than taking us away from online learning, the campus-wide epidemic pushes us more towards it.  

The beginning of a common illness hinders students from physically attending school. Thus, this population relies on online lectures and accommodations for missed labs and tutorials. Unfortunately, online learning hinders student performance since a barrier is created limiting social interactions.   

Students who choose to stay at home for the duration of their sick period fall even more behind. Fortunately, the duration of a common illness is no more than a week. Due to the lack of regulation, students can attend campus earlier than this. However, this small notion further spreads the illness within the student population since the individual’s contagious period may not be over.  

The cold and flu are like COVID-19 in terms of mechanics; they are airborne viruses that target the immune system. Henceforth, masks should be mandatory for ill individuals. As learned through the pandemic, masks work because they prevent ill individuals from spreading their contagious respiratory droplets. Masks function as a barrier. When worn correctly, they prevent individuals from inhaling respiratory droplets as well as spreading the virus to individuals they interact with.  

Although no one likes being sick, ill individuals should not be forced to stay home nor should they walk around campus maskless during their contagious period. It should be mandated that individuals in their recovery phase wear a mask. This will limit the spread of the common illnesses and protect other students who are exercising their freedom to not wear a mask.  

Author

  • Breanna Khameraj

    Breanna is in her second year of Honours Life Sciences. She is ecstatic to combine her love for science and writing by bringing a scientific perspective to the opinions section. Outside of the Silhouette, Breanna enjoys watching anime, taste-testing her sister's baked treats, and reading novels.

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