The University of California, Irvine, is reinstating their indoor mask mandate as Orange County, California has been moved into the “high community transmission” level for COVID-19, CBS News reported Monday.
As a former Irvine resident, I’m not surprised. As a college student, I’m even less surprised.
While I’m not here to judge the effectiveness of masks and make the decision for someone else as to whether or not they should wear one, I do feel confident about one thing: It should be a choice.
It’s true that mandating masks is a better alternative than shutting down in-person operations, but it’s no secret that it’s difficult for students of all ages to communicate and connect with a mask on. I learned this through my grades slipping in my California high school, where we were considered lucky to have hybrid instruction my senior year. The barrier that online and in-person with masks and harsh social distancing guidelines created hindered my ability to grasp certain concepts in math, and I ended up barely passing the course.
Many other students were in the same boat, and I was blessed to be older instead of an elementary school student who is now behind on basic skills because of in-person closures.
When I was choosing colleges, one of the reasons I chose Arizona State University was because they returned to full in-person learning fairly quickly. While we did have to wear masks inside classrooms up until my second semester of freshman year (this spring), everyone respected each other’s decision once it came time to become mask optional in classes. It’s also worth noting that this rule did not apply anywhere except for classrooms and a few other areas where faculty would be present, so student life largely carried on as normal.
As for UCI specifically, I’m more than willing to bet that many students and staff were wearing masks before this mandate. The group mentality thrives in the UC system. People who opted not to wear a face covering were probably verbally guilted into doing so, or at least got their fair share of rude glares. So, this mandate likely does not change the behavior of many. I would like to be wrong, as I’m not on their campus to see it, but my knowledge of the school tells me that my gut instinct is correct.
A serious question I have for UC Irvine though is this: Do you think this will deter any prospective students? I know the answer would be that public health takes precedence over attracting new students.
If that’s the case, then why is Orange County likely not expected to issue its own indoor mask mandate, according to ABC 7? That’s because they know that people are going to make health decisions for themselves regardless of what the government says. They trust that the public is smart enough to use their best judgment when it comes to coronavirus, which is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The unspoken part regarding the prospective student’s question is that the UC system probably has minimal interest in catering to students who would think individualistically and not wear a mask, at least in my view. It’s disappointing, but they couldn’t care less about letting students and faculty think for themselves, and this clearly goes beyond the pandemic.