Opinion | It is not time to take off your mask

We have an obligation to wear masks in public amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.


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Person holding a cloth face mask.

Sophia Meador, Opinions Columnist

I hated winter coats as a child.

Perhaps it was vanity, or the unwavering ego of my 8-year-old self that made me believe I was too cool for a winter coat. Winter coats are obviously necessary when battling Iowa’s cold weather. Without extra layers, we would be vulnerable to hypothermia, frostbite, or chilblains.

Few would argue the necessity of dressing warmly in the winter — but wearing a mask during a pandemic somehow appears unnecessary to some people. To keep the public safe, everyone needs to wear a mask in public settings like restaurants, classrooms, stores, and other concentrated areas.

With the success of the vaccine and low infection rate wrapping up 2021, COVID-19 infections skyrocketing was the last thing we wanted to kick off 2022. But thanks to the omicron variant, COVID-19 numbers are now at an all-time high.

While the general consensus agrees that people infected with the omicron variant experience less severe symptoms of the virus, the transmissibility is more contagious than other variants. This accounts for the increased number of cases in the U.S.

While the omicron variant is more transmissible, the absence of mitigation efforts surrounding COVID-19 protocols has sharpened the increase of infections. Following the holiday season, many spent time with friends and family, increasing the probability of infection. Other vaccinated segments of the public may believe they are clear of COVID-19, leading to a dismissal of precautionary measures.

It is understandable how after nearly two years of pandemic life, people are eager to return to pre-pandemic life. However, we need to keep up with precautions that will keep the public safe from potential exposure. That means wearing a mask in public areas.

Whether you engage non-socially distant crowds or choose not to, it is on every individual to wear a mask in order to keep people safe. Everyone has a unique situation that impacts their ability to follow COVID-19 precautions like social distancing or quarantining. However, almost everyone can wear a mask.

As a service worker at a popular cafe in Iowa City, I constantly feel let down by the absence of customers wearing masks. Because omicron is very transmissible, everyone is vulnerable to getting sick— even the vaccinated, though they have less severe symptoms. That’s why we all have the same responsibility and obligation.

I know several of my co-workers have no choice but to work through the pandemic because of financial hardships. Every shift, they put their health and safety at risk to serve coffee to customers who do not consider safety outside of their own.

This negligence of concern is one reason why COVID-19 has hurt low-income communities the hardest. Many service workers experiencing financial hardships have no choice but to work through the pandemic to make ends meet. Those who do get infected have to take time off work, worsening their financial situations.

While masks alone will not end the pandemic, taking precautionary measures will help bring down the surge in cases. We all take precautionary measures by wearing winter coats, using seat belts, following street meters and other simple due-diligence actions. Wearing a mask during a global pandemic is no different.

I promise, you do not look lame wearing a mask. So please, be considerate of those around you and wear a one in public.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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