Masks affect everyone

Masks affect everyone

Owen Foster

A sea of faces shielded with masks of all colors and designs crowd into the building, ready to start another school day.  

   However, looking closer, many students wear their masks in a variety of ways. Their nose hanging out, the mask pulled all the way up their nose or a classic chin diaper. 

   The different perspectives of wearing masks are on full display once someone examines the swarm of students walking the halls of West Ottawa High School. 

   West Ottawa is not only one of the most diverse schools in West Michigan, but the difference of beliefs at school changes greatly among the student body. 

   While the divergent opinions range in many different varieties, there are three main perspectives most notably recognized with students: anti-mask, pro-mask, and those in the middle ground. 

   Those who are against masks, often seen not wearing them properly, want more freedoms from the regulations imposed upon them. Students who are pro-mask, try and wear their masks accordingly, and often promote the importance of mask-wearing. Finally, the group of students who truly could not care for either side, who may or may not wear their masks, represent the middle ground. 


Anti-Mask Position:

Possibly the most controversial position at West Ottawa and elsewhere is the anti-mask stance. 

   The mask pulled down to their chin. Their nose is always outside of their mask, with no effort to keep the mask up. Maybe the person doesn’t wear a mask at all, or at least until they’re told to by a teacher or security. 

   While these are common stereotypes of an anti-masker, the image of an anti-masker is very recognizable in public as well as West Ottawa. 

   One West Ottawa student, John Smith (not real name), who falls within the anti-mask perspective voiced their strong opinions. “I feel like the masks are useless because we have all of these different masks for fire, painting, hazmat, etc and those are secured masks, and for the most dangerous disease in the world we are wearing a piece of paper basically?” 

   Masks and COVID-19, in the anti-mask position’s eyes, aren’t as serious as everyone plays them up to be. Instead, people should look at other illnesses that have been plaguing schools for a lot longer, such as the stomach flu or colds, and how devastating those are compared to COVID-19. 

   Smith, much like some peers, has certain underlying health conditions. For Smith, these conditions make mask-wearing difficult in their everyday life, “[masks] affect me with my health that I really can’t breathe normally.” Smith found that certain activities like sports, and even just breathing were made more difficult for them due to masks. 

   In addition, Smith wanted to voice the other effects of mask-wearing on the student population, “Seeing people depressed and stuff; before masks were a thing, people in this school were happy,” Smith said. The pandemic has caused some deterioration of student mental health and has seen some schools even add extra days off to support student mental health. However, there is not much data to back up that masks are behind diminishing student mental health. 

   Students that have not worn their masks or wore them improperly have faced blame for the recent rising case numbers, but Smith claims otherwise, “I do not feel responsible for rising cases. We are through the point now where it is just a flu,” Smith said.  

   Instead, they point to the people with underlying health problems for the rise in cases and deaths, “Nobody is getting killed from it, and if they are they have other health problems,” Smith said.


   Pro-Mask Position: 

“I wear a mask,” Lucas Cooley said (not real name). Cooley leans toward the pro-mask perspective in the mask-wearing argument. 

   Cooley knows all too well that COVID can be a dangerous and deadly disease that can affect everyone you know and love. “I have had family members get COVID and they told me they regret not wearing masks”. 

   Having family who were personally affected, anonymous’s pro-mask outlook is very strong. Through the first-hand sight of the effects of COVID-19, they know the importance of staying informed. 

   Cooley likes to stay informed on the science, as well as how different perspectives view the mask issue, getting their information, “From family and the news,” Cooley said. 

   Understanding the data, Cooley also knows how high-grade masks can help fight COVID-19’s spread, “I think wearing a high-grade mask like an n-95 doesn’t affect others just themselves and it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious,”. 

   In light of the recent school closures and case numbers surrounding schools, Cooley believes mask mandates are still highly necessary for the time being. 

   “I think that schools should enforce masks for this year but depend on how bad covid is next year students who are vaccinated should have a choice to wear a mask,” Cooley said. Vaccination in addition to mask-wearing is important for Cooley. 

   The issue of anti-maskers in contrast to Cooley’s belief really poses an issue to stop the spread of COVID. Especially in relation to not wearing your mask and being unvaccinated, “I think that unvaccinated anti maskers are selfish since it doesn’t hurt you to wear one. People are trying to stop the spread and anti maskers aren’t helping”, Cooley said. 

   There is a lot of truth in this notion, as the pandemic has raged through America and the world for almost two years, taking millions of lives in the process. However, they continue to see why anti-maskers have the beliefs they have, “I think that wearing a mask can be annoying while doing certain things but I wear it anyways,” Cooley said. 

   Cooley wants to emphasize the easy nature of wearing a mask, despite its slight annoyance, and the importance thereof of wearing masks to save lives. 

   “I think that you can’t make everyone wear masks because someone will always disagree, but I think that wearing a mask is important to stop the spread of covid even if it can’t be fully enforced,” Cooley said. 

   Knowing they will not be able to sway those extremely against masks, but also trying to connect to those in the middle-ground of the mask perspective, “I don’t think anyone loves wearing masks but it takes minimal effort and anything that can get our lives back to normal,” Cooley said. 

   A fitting concluding statement for a position focused on progress and effort to stop COVID’s spread. 


Middle Ground Perspective: 

For many, masks changed their schooling experience indefinitely, but for some, masks became just another addition to going to school. Just like a calculator for math class, or a charged Chromebook, masks are an item students now grab and take with them as a normal school necessity. For a large portion of students, masks affect them in really no way within their daily lives. 

   Chase Nesbitt (not real name) describes this experience, “My feelings are one of indifference. It doesn’t really affect how my daily life is,” Nesbitt said. 

   The middle ground standpoint does include one important request for fellow students: respect for one another’s opinions. 

   “I really do not care if you do or don’t wear the mask but be respectful of others’ opinions,” anonymous said. “I don’t get how you can have an opinion so far one way or the other. You should always be questioning, not just other people but yourself.  The clashing I think is just dislike for people that do not share your same opinion,” Nesbitt said. 

   Questioning what you’re being told is always important to get the real story or more information that might change the narrative. But for Nesbitt, looking from the different perspectives can allow them to stay neutral in the overall mask debate. 

   Having dealt with COVID-19 personally and knowing how it affected them on a personal level,  Nesbitt emphasizes the importance of listening to others’ experiences in order to better build their own opinions. 

   In terms of protecting those vulnerable to COVID-19, Nesbitt still wants to keep others safe. “I would rather wear the mask so the risks are limited for the people in danger,” Nesbitt said.

   Nesbitt knows, on the other hand, that illnesses and viruses have been spreading long before COVID-19 and the mass usage of masks, “I get wanting to protect the people close to you, but they are always at risk of being exposed to diseases. So [it’s] kind of pointless but at the same time important,”  said. 

   Being in the middle-ground, Nesbitt, and West Ottawa students with similar beliefs, found that there were downsides to mask-wearing, but also positives from a public health standpoint. Nevertheless, they hope that students can look from all angles and viewpoints to get the best possible information, and respect other students’ opinions, no matter their frame of mind on the issue. 


The mask issue remains at a fever pitch of contention not just here at West Ottawa, but around the state as well. 

   Cases are rising yet again in Michigan, the very thing doctors warned about. Rising cases as winter nears, especially in schools, could pose an extreme threat to in-person learning, complicating the school year yet again. 

   On that topic, the issue and importance of understanding the different perspectives at West Ottawa with mask-wearing remain ever more relevant. 

   As mentioned, many people choose to remain anonymous with their mask opinions so they are not attacked because of their opinions. Understanding and relating to the opinions of others is very important. However, a public health measure has now become a focal point of debate when it should be a necessity for safety. 

   On this point, many students show their opinions on mask-wearing in public but don’t openly share their real opinions on the matter verbally. People do not want to be scrutinized when the truth is that the issue affects everyone. 

   If you cannot be scrutinized for your beliefs, then do you truly believe them?