If you don’t want to get sick, then it’s time to take off your masks


Courtesy/Tom Canuel

COVID practices may amplify illnesses

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

As I am sure you are all aware, masks are making a comeback on the hilltop, not by express statute or mandate, but from a combination of quasi-official peer pressure and valid fear of a plethora of illnesses working their way through the student body. Many more students are donning masks in the classroom and around campus, even without being prompted by individual professors’ mask policies. This rise in masking comes as the college also sees a rise in students and faculty testing positive for COVID-19, with most of these cases exhibiting mild symptoms, according to Maura Marshall’s ever important weekly updates.

There has also been a dramatic and noticeable increase in non-pandemic-related illnesses on campus and around the nation, with the common cold pummeling residence halls and flu season just around the corner. There is something to be said for mask wearing when one wants to reduce the spread of a viral infection like COVID, influenza, or the common cold. The past year and a half has shown the power of covering your face and keeping your distance from others, among other essential hygienic practices, when it comes to keeping yourself and others safe and above all virus-free. However, there is also a case for the concept that such thorough hygienic practices are detrimental to our overall health.

For the duration of the pandemic, we have all been disinfecting high contact surfaces, washing our hands, maintaining social distancing, and covering our faces. This was essential to stop the spread of COVID-19, yet these practices also stopped the spread of every other type of germ we are regularly in contact with. Dirt, dust, pollen, and less-serious viruses were all kept at bay for several seasons, allowing our immune systems to take it easy, and like a pro-athlete a year after retirement, our immune systems are severely out of shape.

Simple illnesses that would have previously been as bad as a day or two of sniffling have been knocking students down for the count, causing many to miss class and fall behind on assignments simply from the fatigue of being ill, and we have not even come into the full force of flu season yet. With the common cold and seasonal allergies already decimating the student population, I fear that the impending flu season may have an even worse impact on the health and well-being of students than the pandemic. After more than a year of being swaddled in masks and rinsed in Lysol spray, our immune systems are simply not up to the task of keeping us in tip-top shape anymore, and it may be a long while yet before we are back up to our usual immune capacity.

Bear in mind, I am not anti-mask; any steps that are proven to contain and hopefully eradicate this scourge of the earth should be taken. The events of September 29th at NHIOP proved that ignorance is just as dangerous as any virus. There are, however, trade-offs to masking up as there are with decisions we make throughout our lives. In order to protect ourselves from the COVID virus, we have made ourselves vulnerable to many other previously negligible illnesses. At a certain point, it will be time to take off the masks for good and give our immune systems a good workout.