Lifting mask mandate is ‘irresponsible’

Considering the ongoing, multipronged tragedies we are all facing worldwide, I can hardly imagine a more irresponsible decision for an institution to enact at this moment than lifting a mask mandate while thousands of cases continue to occur nation- and worldwide.

If you don’t believe me, do a simple Google search for: COVID-19 dashboard. Look at the data yourself. It’s blatantly clear this pandemic is not over, regardless of institutional dismissal and reluctance to treat it seriously. As I discussed in my previous piece explaining why I stepped down from my assistantship, the sadder bit is that the corporatized dehumanization of teachers, staff and learners cannot be divorced from its historical context. This, and all previous inhumane decisions, represent business as usual.

Despite these interlocking and compounding normalized inhumanities, we owe it to ourselves as well as our community members (who are parents with children under five, immunocompromised, older adults and/or those suffering from the under-researched and underrepresented, yet disabling, effects of long-COVID, among all other neglected vulnerable groups) to do better, and advocate for ourselves for an enforcement of masks.

Many who comprise the aforementioned historically targeted and most vulnerable groups have had no other choice, but to protect their own health, safety and lives, then to follow strict quarantine lifestyles since March 2020. It has now been nearly two whole years.

Thus, these folks and more have not had the autonomy to just exist in public, as if their lives do not matter anymore. This surprise removal of mask mandates signals an additional way that institutions, like BGSU and others, are now deciding to enforce rules that implicitly and explicitly imply vulnerable lives do not matter.

It could not be any clearer that, even after nearly two whole years, It does not matter if administrators’ decisions are made to prioritize profit, or otherwise.

Yes, in some sense, learning how the foundational logics and rationale of neoliberal present-COVID institutions have adapted over time is crucial. However, readers do not need a crystal ball, or to be historically versed in this, to see that the current actions will inevitably lead to the same conclusions. All they need is a search engine.

The data is clear that another elimination of the mask mandate on college campuses, or anywhere on earth, is to put in motion another absurdly inhumane environment, neglecting all vulnerable groups.

Thankfully, the only information anyone on this or any other campus needs to access to see that is any and all legitimate research findings about this virus. This data is not hidden behind a paywall like most academic research. If you look at the most recent research findings, we know that COVID-19 is airborne. It can remain in the air for a few hours, and remains a contagious sight unseen.

If you look at the data, it could not be any clearer how irresponsible a choice to eliminate mask mandates anywhere at this point truly is.  And much like any research, the overwhelming cases and deaths reported nation- and worldwide are only as reputable as those who report. But, unfortunately, there are inevitably those who are not.

Therefore, because of the sheer fact that there are those among us who fall into these vulnerable groups, regardless of the impressive vaccines dispersed, all premature removals of mask mandates have failed to protect us all. The ones who have gotten sick, become disabled, and/or passed away from COVID-19 or its complications are not expendable casualties. More of us will continue to be lost if institutions refuse to be responsible and do the bare minimum of resuming mask mandates in any and all public places necessary.

Lastly, the issue with removing mask mandates during present-COVID is that the justifications institutions have made demonstrate a blatant disregard or ignorance of our worldly interconnections.

In other words, a removal of mask mandates not only neglects the amount of cases not being reported, as if they don’t exist. But, they are also irresponsible because they neglect the basic fact that so many university members of all kinds can and do move between locations.

Realistically, many of us do not stay in a single county, state, or even nation. So, for administrators to disperse language to its university body as if the low rates of cases in a few local counties suddenly make the entirety of campus a safe zone is ludicrous.

We know BGSU, and other universities, have international student bodies, as well as numerous domestic students who continue to travel to and from locale because administrators made the profitable and equally irresponsible decision to refuse remote courses to faculty who requested them before August 2021.

How many waves of this pandemic will it take to demonstrate to institutions that removing mask mandates prematurely is irrational?

How many more of us need to die of this disease, lose loved ones, and/or become disabled before the institutions we overpay to attend and learn from act like they care if we are healthy and safe?