Most of Wilde Lake Continues to Mask After Mandates Lifted

Over a month after the mask mandate was lifted in schools, most students and teachers continue to wear their masks. (Charlotte Fetters)

Effective March 1, universal indoor masking in HCPSS buildings and on school buses was no longer required. This decision, voted on by the Board of Education, came after the CDC’s recommendation to move to mask-optional policies in low-risk places like Howard County.

Data from HCPSS Covid Dashboard show that Covid cases at Wilde Lake in particular have gone down since December, the highest month of reported cases in 2021.

The CDC has slowly relaxed Covid policy recommendations since last year. For example, they shorted the isolation time for Covid positive people from 14 days to 5 in December.

This allows people to wear their masks for less time while infected and be fully maskless after the full quarantine.

Adding to the decision made by the Board of Education is the increasing number of fully vaccinated people in Howard County, which is above the national average at 85 percent. The risk of spread, according to the CDC, if guidelines are followed, is considered low.

Still, new variants of the virus, spreading in other parts of the world, remain in our community today. Despite this, people are feeling safe because of high vaccination rates.

“I am feeling fairly confident that I am safe, and that is why I’m not wearing a mask,” says History teacher Mrs. Pennington. “I’m not wearing the masks because I trust the science behind the vaccine.”

Marques Brinkley, who chooses not to wear a mask, says, “If they are wearing a mask, it’s a preference thing, and they just wanna be safe and continue to not have Covid.”

HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said in a message on February 24, “While masks will no longer be required in schools, every student and staff member should feel encouraged and supported to make the decision they feel most comfortable with.”

Dr. Martirano said to “practice civility” and “respect the choices of others” when it comes to choosing whether or not to wear a mask. 

Despite the new policy, most students still wear their masks daily.

I think it’s kind of selfish if people, or if I, didn’t wear a mask.

— Cece Roca

“I think it’s kind of selfish if people, or if I, didn’t wear a mask,” said sophomore Cece Roca. “By not wearing a mask, there’s a possibility that you’re getting others sick, and then they’re taking that sickness home with them and potentially endangering many people.”

English teacher Ms. Stoltz also chooses to continue to wear her mask. “Wearing a mask is helpful, potentially, to students who maybe want to wear the mask but aren’t sure the response they are going to get, so this is my way of sort of supporting them,” she said. 

Not wearing one is an unwelcome change for those who have gotten used to wearing a mask. Junior Olivia Morse says she feels strongly about wearing her mask. “For me personally, I wear a mask to feel a sense of safety and to feel almost protected in a way, like I get very anxious without wearing one.”

Others have gotten accustomed to having most of their face hidden. Junior Andrew Heffner says his mask allows him to be as expressive as he wants without fearing judgment from his peers. “Masks offer a sort of anonymity, and it feels almost like people can’t see me if my face is covered,” he said. “I make a lot of weird facial expressions that would be inappropriate at times, so the mask can also be a social buffer.”

As Covid restrictions relax and cases trend down, Wilde Lake has shown that most people are used to wearing masks and are not ready to take them off. “It’s like muscle memory now,” says junior Charlie Treger.