You’re Not Being Tricked: Put the Mask Back On

Things are starting to get dicey again. 

Everyone is talking about it: the radio station I listen to as I drive to work,  “JAM’N 94.5, Boston’s #1 for Hip-Hop,” had a call-in segment about the fact that mask orders might be returning. My blood boiled as callers griped about how they’d gotten vaccinated only to get slammed with another round of mask-wearing, how they felt that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were scamming them. At the bank, I heard a teller sympathize with a client after telling him he once again had to wear a mask. She said, “Anything for them to tell us what to do, right? It’s all about control.” The man said he couldn’t agree more. 

I understand the frustration of feeling like we’re going backwards. What I don’t understand is how so many people feel like they’re being tricked or controlled by the reemergence of mask mandates, as if the CDC hadn’t already predicted a second wave and the emergence of new variants. And even if you haven’t been listening, the evident lack of consistent herd immunity would make it clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going to be gone within a year. 

For me, mask-wearing has never really been much of a hassle. Sure, it can get frustrating, but honestly, I don’t notice it too much. It’s a little piece of cloth; I don’t have to wear it all the time, and the alternative is much, much more of a hassle — the kind that could involve sitting in a hospital bed for weeks or months or having side effects that could stick around for the rest of my life. Since I’m immunocompromised, I’ve had to be very careful about continuing to wear my mask in public places; even when masking wasn’t required, I had decided to err on the side of caution. I’ve been wearing a mask much more than most of the other people in my life, and it’s been my choice. And it hasn’t been that bad. 

I understand that students on campus have been thrust back into the masking debate after the College’s updated mandate per new suggestions by the CDC for Lorain County. While I’m not currently on campus, I expect that many Obies are feeling the same outrage and fear that I’ve been observing and experiencing at home. As I think about those on campus now adjusting to new regulations, I wonder what kind of general sentiment Oberlin will have when I return in the fall. I trust my fellow students to be responsible in wearing their masks, but will they share my fears, or will they begrudgingly accept the new changes and fight them when possible? 

It’s not that I don’t understand the frustration of going back to mask-wearing. It is obviously not that much fun — especially when I’m wearing one for hours at work and I have to keep readjusting when my ears get sore from the straps. These inconveniences, though, are not enough to keep me from wearing my mask, especially when the CDC says it’s necessary. I don’t know who around me could be sick or immunocompromised. I feel it’s my duty to do all that I can to protect myself and others. 

I feel this sense of duty even more now. The Delta variant is real, it is scary, but it was expected. People seem to be rebelling against this new mask order because they feel they’re being controlled or cheated, like we’re going backwards. But we can either take two steps forward and one step back by wearing masks again, or we can be right back where we started without them.