A Controversial Perspective on the Mask Mandate Debate

People have the right and ability to retaliate, complain, and protest whenever and pretty much however they like. Whether that’s an inherently good or bad thing is an entirely different debate.


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For many people, the mask can no longer be separated from what it stands for, good or bad.

Sunny Li, Staff Writer

Mandating masks: a debate that has created and raised the tensions of two sides–”pro-maskers” and “anti-maskers.” But this debate has spiraled out of control, leaving the community in a never-ending circle of toxicity; toxicity that has exhausted me to the point where I’m forced into neutrality.

I do lean towards the essence of what the pro-maskers argue, and agree with the final outcome of what they are fighting for.

According to an article written by Maria Goody–an author for NPR–all the way back from June 21st, 2020, “a meta-analysis of 172 studies that looked at various interventions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19” found that “mask wearing significantly reduces the risk of viral transmission.”

Even without these in-depth studies, it’s pretty easy to figure out the benefits of wearing a mask through some simple logic; wearing a mask covers the mouth and nose, thus (partially, mostly, or nearly entirely depending on the type of mask) nullifying two major points of entry for the virus.

Pro-Maskers Fighting For a Mask Mandate For Students at School       (Image Source: WBST22)

Goody also mentioned the protection of others around a person that comes with masking, and not just the person themselves.

Goody interviewed Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies the airborne transmission of viruses, who discussed how when people talk quickly, droplets of saliva can come out. Marr believed that “even a low-quality mask can block a lot of those droplets.”

Marr’s claims are supported by a study published in Nature Medicine, in April of the same year. The study confirmed Marr’s initial belief, finding that “even loose-fitting surgical masks blocked almost all the contagious droplets the wearers breathed out and even also some infectious aerosols — tiny particles that can linger in the air.”

Even without these studies, the logic behind what pro-maskers fight for can be pretty easily deduced, and just like said pro-maskers, I want to see the numbers drop. I care for the safety and well-being of myself, and everyone around me…but I can’t say I have it in me to commit to a side.

As the days of the debate keep passing, I’m starting to care less and less. Part of this came down to the realization that any victory for either of the two sides wouldn’t last long, and therefore wouldn’t make that substantial of an impact.

A great example of this lack of finality on any decision regarding the debate were the last major decisions on the guidelines of mask mandates for the NA school district. 

On August 19th, after the superintendent’s decision to mandate masking left many members of the school board unsatisfied, a heated debate lasting several hours occurred. The meeting ended with, as reported by CBS Pittsburgh, “the board [voting] 6 to 3 to instead make masks optional.” 

Anti-Maskers Protesting Against a Mask Mandate For Students at School       (Image Source: NPR)

However, the debate itself would only grow more intense, with many pro-maskers outraged by the decision, and many anti-maskers fighting fiercely to keep the decision intact.

Barely a month later, as reported by TribLive, the “North Allegheny School Board voted 5-4 on Sept. 22 to require masks for students, staff and visitors indoors if Allegheny County is at a high or substantial rate, even if the state’s health department order is lifted.”

But the outcome couldn’t last long. Sandy Trozzo, a writer for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reported that on December 10th–not even three months after the previous vote– “the board voted 5-4 Wednesday to ‘strongly recommend’ masks, but not make them mandatory, when the state mask mandate ends.” 

People have the right and ability to retaliate, complain, and protest whenever and pretty much however they like. Whether that’s an inherently good or bad thing is an entirely different debate. In this application however, the only truth is that these rights will inevitably infinitize this debate to the point where no side will ever be satisfied for more than a few months, while the other side is forced to “suffer” under the other’s victory.

This lack of finality on a decision is frustrating, but nowhere near as frustrating as the toxicity that this debate has fueled. 

It’s understandable why so much negativity exists. For pro-maskers, the health and well-being of everyone in the community is on the line, and for anti-maskers, freedom and the right to make individual decisions is on the line (in addition to a variety of other potential factors). Neither side can bear the thought of losing what they’re fighting for, so the fire within them has become overgrown.

I’ve talked with, read and heard about, and seen conversations between mentors, family members, peers, and many others since the start of the pandemic, and every time someone even mentions the word “mask,” the intensity of the room skyrockets from zero to one hundred. There’s frustration, sometimes screaming, and merciless arguments devoid of any composure, compassion, or open-mindedness (sometimes even when both people are on the same side).

All I really have left in me to say about the situation.

At this point, no one is actually listening to anyone, and all that’s really going on with one side when the other side is talking are the rolling of eyes, and the tuning out of arguments. Even if one side were to finally win (which is highly unlikely), it will only leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the other side, and strengthen the already-existing tensions within the community…if there even is a community anymore.

But does that mean all hope is lost? Not entirely. If the community can come together, choose to reevaluate themselves, keep an open mind, and consider what others have to say…it would at least be theoretically possible for improvements to be seen. 

The current situation however, is destined to result in a loss no matter what. If things stay the way they are now, the community will remain stuck in an endless loop. If a miraculous, permanent, victor emerges, the losing side will be left suffering without ever receiving a chance to understand the other perspective (not to mention the animosity between the two sides that will inevitably emerge). 

Others see hope in their future victory, but all I see is frustration, toxicity, and animosity. People may agree, or they (most likely) may not, but persuasion isn’t the point. The least I can do is offer an explanation for refusing to join a side. 

This debate–and all the negativity and drama that comes with it–is just overwhelmingly tiring.