Masks Need to Stay on Through Winter at WHS

Abby Fiedler '24, Contributing Writer

Just like everyone else, I am a teenager who is tired of the impact of Covid-19. It feels as if the social distancing, rapid tests, quarantining, and mask wearing will never end. Mask wearing in school is an ongoing debate with many valid arguments. Through research and communication with peers, I have concluded that throughout the winter, masks should be required in schools.

An argument many would use towards de-masking in school would be that Westborough High School has a vaccination rate of 87% (as of October 5th).* While this is true, breakthrough cases of Covid-19 can still occur. A breakthrough case is an instance in which a person becomes sick with a disease despite having received the vaccine for that disease. Similar to the flu, which is a yearly and routine vaccination for many, infections still occur.

Winter is a time where the cold forces many to remain indoors in close proximity to each other, and failure to comply with the 6 feet of social distancing and mask wearing results in more germs shared between more people. Last year during the months of December, January, and February, 250,000 Americans lost their lives to Covid. While the upcoming winter months appear to be less threatening than the last, due to the vaccine, cases are still expected to rise. Currently, the circulating covid variant is the Delta variant, which is more than twice as contagious as the Sars-CoV-2 variant which was circulating last winter.

As of November 11, 2021, more than 40% of the U.S. population still remains completely unvaccinated. This is equivalent to roughly 128 million people. While 87% of the WHS population may be vaccinated, there are likely to be family and friends they gather with during the holiday season that are unvaccinated.

University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) conducted an experiment that demonstrated that only if 95% of Americans wear masks through the winter, roughly 56,000 lives could be saved. According to the IHME the likeliest scenario this winter results in a peak of 1,200 Covid-19 deaths a day before dropping back down. This data shows how wearing a mask, even if vaccinated, can still save lives.

Cold weather also increases the rate of transmission of infectious diseases. In humid weather, Covid-19 droplets drop quicker, resulting in less time for transmission of disease to occur. When the weather is colder, and there is no humidity in the air, Covid-19 droplets take much longer to drop making the possibility of Covid-19 transmission much more likely. Wearing a mask would decrease the possibility of infection significantly.

As I am writing this article, Westborough High School just released that flexible mask mandates will begin on January 10, 2022. While making the decision to wear or not wear your mask, please be considerate of the more vulnerable in our community. Take a second to realize that a small inconvenience like wearing a mask could save the lives of many.

*I recognize that this is not the most recent source of data, but it was the last record of vaccination rates sent to the public.

Sources Used:

COVID-19 infections appear to creeping up again in Massachusetts