Opinion | Eased mask mandates are a positive step forward

With masks no longer mandated on public transportation, we are seeing a positive step towards “normalcy.”


Ayrton Breckenridge

A Cambus goes down West Washington Street in Iowa City on Sunday, May 1, 2022.

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

In April, a Florida judge overturned the nationwide mask mandate that applied to public transportation systems. This law had been in effect since January of 2021. In response to this decision, the university’s Cambus system announced their compliance:

“Face masks are no longer required when riding CAMBUS,” stated the website. “With COVID-19 still present in our community, face masks remain an effective tool for protecting yourself and others against the virus. While not required, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of masks while using indoor public transportation.”

Low case numbers indicate the risk-factor of a maskless population, especially for the vaccinated, is minimal. For people who choose not to wear a mask, this is a step forward in the right direction.

While the COVID-19 vaccination doesn’t guarantee a prevention of infection or symptoms, getting vaccinated drastically lowers mortality rate and the severity of illness.

After two years of following public health measures to slow COVID-19 spread, we are slowly recovering and getting used to seeing each other like “old times,” times that will be welcomed and cherished, that were taken for granted. The decision to repeal the mask mandate for transportation is a positive sign toward the path to pre-pandemic life.

In January, the U.S. experienced the omicron spike case numbers following the holiday season.

After a sharp downturn in February, cases in Iowa COVID-19 cases are ticking back up again, but they still remain among the lowest seen during the pandemic. As of now, Iowa has had an average of less than 300 cases a day for the past seven days. Statistically speaking, we are in a promising state.

Politicians have expressed their grievances and praises to lifting the transportation mask mandate, showing a partisanship to this concern.

“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate,” Gov. Ron Desantis, R-Florida, wrote in a tweet.

For those who still want to be masked, that freedom is yours. Regardless of your own opinions, we must respect the decision of people who choose to not wear masks when healthy.

While the CDC recommends social distancing of up to six feet apart, this isn’t realistic because of the crowding that can occur within public transport. As most students who ride the Cambus at the UI know from experience, there is no room to socially distance, at least properly.

It is important to note that before this recent ruling, there was never an enforcement method for wearing masks. But, businesses also reserve the right to refuse service to those who don’t comply with their COVID-19 standards.

Hopefully, more businesses will follow this decision to lift masks as time goes on to not alienate potential customers.

Despite relatively low case numbers, it is highly recommended for anyone who feels they may have contracted or been near anyone with COVID-19, to test at the nearest facilities offered at your local Hy-Vee or the UI QuickCare.

As cases decline, we can look forward to the day we can all release a collective sigh and breathe easy, looking back to these last couple years as a nightmare, rather than an eternity of guidelines to follow.

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.