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Opinion: The politicization of the mask debate

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Justin O’Toole/THE REVIEW
Like many things in today’s society, the pandemic and mask mandates quickly became politicized.

BY
Columnist

Now that Delaware has lifted many of the COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, I’m sure everyone is ready to welcome summer with open arms and a maskless face. It’s exciting to see social gatherings return and the streets filled with people. But for some, the return to life pre-COVID-19 is not a reason to celebrate — it’s cause for uneasiness.

Some have argued that states like Delaware that are lifting restrictions are moving too quickly, and it will only cause the case numbers to rise once again. Others argue that with the vaccine so readily available at this point, we won’t see another spike. The debates and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 have plagued media outlets since the beginning of the pandemic, leading to distrust and anxiety in many people. With the debates ongoing and some states keeping restrictions in place, many people have opted to keep wearing a mask as a precautionary measure. 

Upon returning to Newark in the fall, it will certainly be an adjustment to see the lack of masks and the decrease in safety measures in comparison to the past year. Some students have become so accustomed to wearing a mask and being surrounded by limited capacities that being on campus without these safety measures might feel wrong or unsafe. Other students are fully ready to shed the masks and safely attend social gatherings once again. Despite which side of the debate you lean toward, the upcoming fall semester will be a notable shift from what we have seen over the past year. 

Like many things in today’s society, the pandemic and mask mandates quickly became politicized. Masks became a contributing factor to what political party you’re a part of, with one side being called “sheep” for wearing masks and the other side automatically deemed as Republicans. Both of these arguments defy logic; not only are there people from both political parties on either side of the debate, but masks were meant to protect ourselves and others. With the debate becoming so politicized, it’s no surprise that people are now concerned with how they are perceived. Even though I am fully vaccinated, there are times when I am outside without a mask, and I can’t help but wonder what people are thinking about me.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that once you’re fully vaccinated you no longer have to wear a mask, the number of people resuming activities without a mask is increasing. Once everyone returns to campus for the fall semester, there will most likely be a mixture of students who choose to wear masks and those who don’t. It’s a matter of what people are comfortable with and no one should be judged for how they proceed when we suddenly return to normal campus life. It will be a change from the new normal we all have gotten used to and not everyone will be ready to fully give up the mask just yet. 

Assuming someone’s political stance based on whether or not they’re wearing a mask, especially now that the vaccine is required to return to campus, is not the mentality we should bring into the fall semester. If the CDC says it’s ok to not wear a mask if vaccinated, then those who choose not to should have the right to do so without the fear of what others are thinking. On the other hand, those who want to continue to wear a mask to feel safer and more comfortable should have the right to do so as well. Get vaccinated, follow your state’s mandates and the CDC guidelines and have a great summer!

Lily Williams is a columnist for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at lillianw@udel.edu.

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