EDITORIAL: Mask On, Not Off

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Published September 30, 2021
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The Montclarion
Ruthy Villa | The Montclarion

The return to in-person operations at Montclair State University has revitalized campus life. Students, professors and employees are striving to meet the safety requirements that enabled this to happen. However, some people seem to be missing a key component of the most basic and widespread safety requirement, and it needs to be addressed immediately.

Masks are meant to be worn over the nose. Not under, not halfway up the bridge, but completely covering the face below the eyes. This seems like a simple standard to meet, yet in every university building, some people have consciously decided to put their noses on full display.

This behavior negates the entire point of the mask. When you exhale, microscopic droplets fly into the air and remain there for a prolonged period of time. These same droplets have become a major concern during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as a primary source of contamination and infection. Lest we forget, the ever-surging delta variant is causing COVID-19 case numbers to soar in New Jersey, and multiple cases have already been reported on campus.

Exposing the nose implicates the mask flouter as a potential health hazard, but it also broadcasts apathy and devotion to self-interest. It shows a profound disregard for the safety of others as well as a blatant prioritization of one’s own comfort. Not everyone on campus is vaccinated, and since inoculated individuals are still susceptible to infection, there is no reason to feel exempt from the mask guidelines.

“I can’t breathe with this thing on!” seems to be one of the most common excuses given for improper mask-wearing. If that’s the case, simply get a different mask. Some cloth or dust masks can certainly be uncomfortable and warm over long periods of time, but they are far from the only choice.

Surgical masks are the lightest and least obtrusive option. If someone working a 12-hour shift on their feet in a hospital can wear one, it’s absolutely doable for everyone else.

There are countless signs on campus reminding people of the right way to wear a mask, yet it seems to be an ineffective measure considering the number of improperly masked people who walk right by them. Some, inexplicably, take their masks off to cough openly into the air, then put them right back on.

Students have even seen maskless workers at foodservice stations such as Panera, where hygiene standards and safety protocols should be paramount.

Wearing masks is a matter of public safety and showing compassion for others, not a matter of personal preference. There are many things one is free to choose, but when a decision directly affects others, it is no longer about you alone.

Montclair State’s campus has more than enough outdoor space, where it is safe to remove your mask and get some fresh air between classes. This makes the idea that anyone would choose to expose their nose indoors or even neglect to wear a mask at all even more baffling.

It is incredibly difficult to not feel exasperated or angry at such widespread negligence. Montclair State has worked too hard as a community and an institution to make the shift back to a semi-normal campus experience for this kind of behavior to continue.

Approaching someone who is flouting mask guidelines can be risky, as it’s impossible to predict how they will react. This task should probably be designated to campus security officers or other personnel. That being said, anyone immature enough to purposefully attempt to provoke people by not wearing a mask correctly is decidedly not mature enough to be on a college campus, but that’s another issue altogether.

The Montclarion implores you to be aware of your indoor mask habits and recognize your responsibility to others. On campus and in life, there are obligations we all have to each other that keep us safe, healthy and comfortable. For your sake and the sake of others, keep your mask situated above your mouth and nose; it’s the easiest thing you’ll do all day, but it’s also one of the most important.

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