View from Here: It is time to ditch the masks


Zachary Navarra

The View from Here is a column written by Editor-in-Chief Steven Rissotto.

The days of requiring a mask mandate at Skyline College should be over. As time drags on without adapting to a new normal, the more silly we look for keeping it.

The COVID-19 pandemic — once a spontaneous force to be reckoned with — has moved on to a different level, one much less severe. As a result, we must avoid falling five steps behind and start adapting. It’s like the parents who still can’t help but treat their high school teenager like a toddler.

Yes, masks have been extraordinarily helpful in combating the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. But the peak of COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror. The number of cases in San Mateo County has dropped significantly and the indoor mask mandate has already been dropped statewide.

California no longer requires masks indoors aside from a few exceptions: public transit, healthcare centers and jails. They are recommended, but not required. So why are these restrictions still in place at Skyline?

Does the district not trust us?

The district reported that 57% of students were taking classes exclusively online as of Jan. 10. The campuses aren’t even filled to the max with students. The risk of spreading the virus is significantly lowered since the school is under 50% capacity.

Use Skyline’s popular cafeteria as another example. Students utilize that space to socialize, study and eat; it’s impossible to do the latter without a mask. Therefore, the entire purpose of wearing a mask to not expose anyone is invalid if students are allowed to eat inside without one.

Since classes started on Jan. 19, The San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) has 59 reported COVID-19 positive cases in January and 38 in February. So far in March, that number looks like it won’t even top double digits.

Since the omicron variant peaked in mid-January, the county’s daily cases have gone downhill and are down 39% as of March 19. Hospitalizations — a significant measurement the district has closely followed in the past are down 29%.

The necessity for masks has all but disappeared.

There’s no question that COVID-19 is here to stay. We have reached the point where learning to deal with it should be a given. Lifting the mandates does not mean individuals have to stop wearing their masks, anyone can continue to wear theirs if they choose. It’s unacceptable that Skyline feels like the only spectacle in the county where masks are required.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has deemed it acceptable to drop the mask mandate for indoor use. They advise only people in high-risk COVID-19 areas to wear masks, which 99% of Americans aren’t in. In the U.S., cases are down 35%, hospitalizations are down 50% and intensive care units are down 54%. These drastic declines should warrant a change in protocol.

So why doesn’t the district listen to the experts? It’s time to lift the mask mandates, it’s time to adapt to our new normal.